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The Right to Breathe

So, imagine breathing in a substance that not only exacerbates but causes known breathing problems such as asthma. You'd want the Environmental Protection Agency to do something about it, right?

Well, they did: in June the EPA reined in emissions of sulfur dioxide—a nasty chemical—from power plants and other sources. These new standards are expected to prevent thousands of asthma attacks and hundreds of emergency room visits every year.

Great, right? Industry doesn't think so.

City-dwellers are intimately familiar with the pros and cons of living with neighbors. Their heavy footsteps thunder overhead, their loud music penetrates the walls, and strange odors sometimes drift down the halls. These are nuisances, no doubt, but not all neighborly disturbances are so innocuous.

Consider, for example, communities across the country that live near chemical plants, paper mills and other polluting industries. Air pollution from these industrial neighbors often results in higher rates of asthma and other serious illnesses in local communities.

In 1970, the Clean Air Act first took aim at toxic air emissions from industrial facilities across the United States. Forty years later, it finally hit a major target.

Actually, 28 major targets. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today agreed to review and update Clean Air Act rules that rein in emissions of nearly 200 hazardous air pollutants released by 28 kinds of industrial facilities.

Yesterday the White House took a firm stand against an effort to undermine the 40-year-old Clean Air Act, reverse a Supreme Court decision, and block the federal fuel efficiency standards that were finalized this past spring, which will reduce the nation's consumption of oil by at least 455 million barrels.
 

Breathing isn't a choice. Everyone does it, no matter where they live. But for many Americans, where they live has a tremendous impact on the quality of the air they breathe.

Take a look at Mossville, Louisiana for instance, which is home to 14 chemical plants. The town's residents are plagued by severe health problems like cancer and kidney disease attributed to pollution from these local facilities.

Folks living in the Gulf Coast—and near stinky PVC plants—rejoice! Earthjustice has reached a settlement agreement to have the EPA begin regulating toxins coming from these plants, which are responsible for pumping approximately 500,000 pounds of vinyl chloride—a known human carcinogen—and other toxins into the air. In spite of the documented effects of these cancer-causing chemicals, the PVC industry's air emissions have remained largely unregulated for decades.

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