PHILADELPHIA, PA — The Philadelphia area, home to more than 6 million people, suffered through 85 days of poor air quality due to air pollution in 2018, according to a new report from PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group.
“No Philadelphian should have to experience one day of polluted air — let alone 85 days, ” said Alex Lola, Climate Defender Organizer with PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “Air quality will only get worse as our climate warms, so we have no time to lose. We must make progress toward clean air.”
For the report, Trouble in the Air: Millions of Americans Breathed Polluted Air in 2018, researchers reviewed Environmental Protection Agency air pollution records from across the country. The report focuses on ground-level ozone and fine particulate pollution, which are harmful pollutants that come from burning fossil fuels such as coal, diesel, gasoline, natural gas and from other sources. Air pollution increases the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.
“Air pollution is an insidious danger for those with respiratory and cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Walter Tsou, the interim Executive Director for Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility. “It leads to excess preventable deaths, more labored breathing for those with lung disease, and premature heart attacks. We need to stop burning fossil fuels.”
The report’s findings come at a time when the federal government is further endangering air quality by dismantling protections under the Clean Air Act such as California’s clean car standards, which Pennsylvania had joined.
“The data show that America’s existing air quality standards aren’t doing enough to protect our health,” said Elizabeth Ridlington, Policy Analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of the report. “As the climate warms, higher temperatures and more severe wildfires increase air pollution and the threat to human health.”
“The climate crisis is real and poor people will continue to feel the brunt of it first. As one of the youngest members of the General Assembly this is personal — my future is on the line,” said State Rep. Malcom Kenyatta. “We need a mobilization of resources at all levels of government to protect our air, our water, and our natural resources. Everything is on the line.”
Recommendations: the report called on policymakers at all levels of government to:
Oppose the Trump Administration’s rollbacks to critical clean air protections like the Clean Power Plan, the Mercury Air Toxics Standards and clean car rules.
Cut pollution from transportation by switching to zero-emission electric vehicles
Support Pennsylvania’s proposal to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which would dramatically reduce fossil fuel emissions from industrial sources, and the Transportation and Climate Initiative, which would tackle carbon emissions from cars and trucks
Rein in the worst sources of industrial pollution, including Pittsburgh’s Toxic Ten.
Fully fund environmental watchdogs like the PA Department of Environmental Protection
“To protect our health, we need to fight for clean air,” said Morgan Folger, the Clean Car Community Campaign Director for Environment America Research & Policy Center. “The transition to electric cars, trucks, and buses is absolutely critical to reducing harmful air pollution and fighting climate change.”
“While the closure of the City’s largest stationary polluter, the PES Refinery, is a good step towards tackling air pollution in the region,” said Lola, “we must also halt continued investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, like the new gas plants in Nicetown and South Philly. Such projects are not compatible with clean air and a livable climate.”
Source: PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center
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