Our Air is Our Health

Clean air advocates tell EPA at public hearings to cut toxic emissions

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Clean air advocates, many sporting "Don’t Trash Our Lungs" t-shirts, spoke out yesterday at public hearings in Los Angeles and Houston for much-needed reductions in toxic air pollution. Held by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the hearings focused on recent EPA proposals to cut emissions of hazardous air pollutants like mercury and other toxic metals at nearly 100,000 facilities nationwide.

While aspects of the EPA’s proposals will result in significant benefits to public health if finalized, the agency also made an irresponsible and dangerous offering to industry in the form of a loophole that would allow many facilities to burn industrial wastes without any meaningful oversight or pollution controls.

I attended the L.A. hearing to ask that EPA issue final standards that are maximally strong and protective of public health and ditch the loophole that endangers communities across the country. Hundreds of Earthjustice supporters in the L.A. area, which is notorious for its poor air quality, also submitted comments asking for the same, and I was able to read excerpts from many of these during my testimony.

One supporter wrote: "The health of L.A.’s residents must be a greater priority to the EPA than corporate inconvenience or profit reductions. Our economy always recovers, but our children sometimes don’t."

That point was underscored by six awesome youth attendees from the Del Amo Action Committee—a local environmental justice group working to protect the health and safety of their community—who stood at the podium while group representatives told the EPA that their lives depend on protective action from the EPA. Children and the elderly are typically most at risk of developing serious health problems due to toxic air.

Thousands of additional communities across the country need their health protected from toxic air pollution as well. As the EPA considers public comment on their proposals, we need to make sure the agency hears from people who want clean air without delay. Big polluters will do all they can to get EPA to weaken and delay protective standards, and the public needs to help EPA stand up to the pressure. Sign up for Earthjustice action alerts to stay posted on how you can speak out.

Sam Edmondson was a campaign manager on air toxics issues from 2010 until 2012. He helped organize the first 50 States United for Healthy Air event. His desire to work at an environmental organization came from the belief that if we don't do something to change our unsustainable ways, we are in big trouble.