Two Minutes to Catch Your Breath

catch your breath

By: Linh Anh Cat, Ph.D. Candidate at UC Irvine

You probably know someone with asthma or heart disease. You might know that pollution affects both of these conditions. It makes sense that air pollution makes asthma attacks worse. But, it also causes plaque in the arteries to loosen–triggering heart attacks.

About 200,000 Americans each year die early due to air pollution. And California suffers the worst health impacts from air pollution compared to other states.

However, in the last 50 years, air pollution in the greater LA improved by 70-80% because of the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act promotes pollution reduction through federal standards for air quality and recently was expanded to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) manages the Clean Air Act in cooperation with state, local, and tribal governments. The EPA is currently threatened – two bills have been introduced to dismantle (HR958) or destroy the EPA, (HR861).

Globally, 7 million people die early each year due to suffocating air quality. Many live in India or China, where there is no air quality regulation. Without the EPA, we will be in this position, too. EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment – air, water, and land. We can fight for the health of our friends and family by taking two minutes to call our members of Congress and oppose HR958 and HR861.

I am an ecologist who studies microbes in the air. I spent a year taking air samples using filters that are able to capture all particles in the air smaller than the thickness of a strand of hair. Anything smaller than this size can be inhaled and enter your bloodstream through your lungs. This was an important standard set by the EPA.

Even after a few days, my air filters are black from carbon in the air. The carbon comes from burning fossil fuels (i.e., power plants to run your home, the exhaust that comes from millions of commuters in the greater LA area).

The black dust also enters our lungs. Without the Clean Air Act and the EPA, these filters—and our lungs—would be filled within hours.

For many of us, regulation can feel like an intrusion into our lives. But, fresh air is a necessity. Without the EPA, corporations would not regulate themselves. And pollution may increase.

A new rule from the EPA will require that scientific studies the agency uses must be publically available. Scott Pruitt believes this will help increase transparency since the public would be able to check the data themselves. However, this will limit large amounts of studies from being used in decision-making, especially studies that examine large amounts of public health data, which aren’t public for privacy reasons. This rule will likely cripple the EPA’s ability to make decisions on issues that impact our health – like air pollution.

These actions fundamentally oppose the EPA’s basic mission. We need the EPA to prevent pollution that harms the air and water and subsequently the health of our families.

As American citizens, we are blessed with rights and freedoms that many others do not have. Let’s practice our civic responsibilities – pick up the phone and call the EPA and let them know what you think of this new rule. They will continue to accept public comments for the next weeks – a quick two-minute call will make a breathable difference.

Works Cited

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Air-Pollution-and-Heart-Disease-Stroke_UCM_442923_Article.jsp#.WK3NYxLyuhc

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-35568249

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/air-pollution/en/

http://news.mit.edu/2013/study-air-pollution-causes-200000-early-deaths-each-year-in-the-us-0829

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/scott-pruitt-environmental-protection-agency_us_5878ad15e4b0b3c7a7b0c29c