Lung Association Unveils Healthy Air Agenda to Protect Kids from Dangerous Air Pollution

Republican State Representative announces joint resolution calling for action from Congress

AUGUSTA, ME (February 13, 2013)

The American Lung Association believes too many Maine children and seniors are getting sick from out-of-state air pollution and they’ve got a plan to do something about it. Calling it the “Healthy Air Agenda”, the Lung Association held a press conference in Augusta today and unveiled a four-point blueprint for cleaning up the air.

“Out-of-state smokestacks and tailpipes have put a bulls-eye on the backs of Maine children and seniors,” stated Dr. Marguerite Pennoyer, a physician practicing Allergy & Immunology and a Board Member of the American Lung Association in Maine. “Maine’s adult asthma rate is the highest in the nation. But by putting stronger science-based standards in place, many of the health and economic impacts of dangerous air pollution could be prevented. And that’s why we mustn’t delay taking action to clean up our air.”

The Lung Association’s introduction of the Healthy Air Agenda comes on the heels of President Obama’s State of the Union address last night in which he prioritized action on the pollutants that cause climate change, stating, “If Congress doesn’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”

The Healthy Air Agenda calls for a clean-up of coal-fired power plants, which are considered the biggest source of the carbon pollution that is linked to climate change and a major source of other hazardous pollutants such as mercury, benzene, dioxins, and arsenic. Research shows that these can cause cancer and heart disease; harm the kidneys, lungs and nervous system; and even kill.

“I can tell you first-hand how much asthma affects your life, limits your activities, and leaves you feeling vulnerable on days when the air quality is bad,” said Mary Trescot, who is the Executive Director of Youth Promise in Newcastle and has severe asthma on hot summer days. “It’s no way to live as an adult, and it’s certainly no way for kids to grow up. We don’t need more partisan politics. We need updated standards to protect health and we need adequate funding for monitoring and clean-up programs.”

The Healthy Air Agenda recommends action on tailpipe pollution by reducing the amount of sulfur in gasoline and setting tighter pollution limits on new vehicles. The Agenda also calls on Congress to reject across-the-board-cuts that could be triggered by the “fiscal cliff” budget impasse as these cuts could significantly hamper efforts to monitor air quality and clean up dirty air.

"People come to Maine for our clean air and water, our beautiful landscapes, our abundant natural resources, and our enjoyable way of life,” said Doug Michael, Executive Director of Healthy Acadia, a non-profit Community Health Coalition and a Healthy Maine Partnership serving Maine’s Downeast Acadia region. “How ironic it is that Downeast Maine is home to one of the most beloved parks in the nation – Acadia National Park – and yet has some of the highest asthma rates, and some of the worst ozone levels, in the state and the country. In Bar Harbor we are the tail end of the tailpipe. It’s short-sighted and irresponsible to jeopardize Maine’s economic future by delaying action to reduce dangerous out-of-state air pollution.”

Joining in the Lung Association’s efforts to get in charge of unhealthy air, State Representative Dennis Keschl, a Republican from Belgrade and former Director of the Maine Air Bureau announced a Joint Resolution calling on Congress to protect and defend the Clean Air Act from roll-backs, delays, or outright blocks to science-base standards.

“The reality is, we don’t have to choose between improving public health and helping our economy innovate and grow,” said Rep. Keschl. “What the Lung Association has introduced is a simple, common sense path to healthier air. And it will put us another step closer to getting health costs under control – currently the #1 concern among Maine businesses. I look forward to passing this joint resolution and sending a strong message to Congress that it’s time to level the playing field on air pollution that crosses state lines.”

“It’s not just tourism and hospitality,” added Michael. “Farmers and fishermen make their living here, and cutting edge research and biotechnologies locate their businesses here. We need Senator Collins and Senator King to stand up for Maine families and small businesses by taking leadership on the Lung Association’s Healthy Air Agenda.”

The Maine Healthy Air Coalition, a group of 55 statewide and local health care and public health organizations led by the Lung Association and including Healthy Acadia, called on Maine Senators Collins and King, and Representatives Michaud and Pingree to sign on to the Healthy Air Agenda and start taking immediate action in Congress to limit the dangerous air pollutants that cross state lines and drift into Maine.

“The Healthy Air Agenda is about smokestacks, tailpipes, research & enforcement, and no weakening or delays to Clean Air Act standards,” stated Effie Craven, Coordinator for the Maine Healthy Air Coalition. “In recent years the Clean Air Act has come under attack in Congress. We’ve seen direct attacks by industry polluters and their allies who, like the tobacco industry, use junk science and fear-tactics to defend their life-threatening emissions. Other attacks have been more insidious - coming in the form of budget cuts, Congressional maneuvers, and never-ending lawsuits that undermine and delay science-based standards to keep us all healthy. It’s time to end the attacks on the Clean Air Act and start advancing a Healthy Air Agenda.”

Research shows that the two most widespread air pollutants, ozone and particle pollution, can lead to serious health effects. Particle pollution is a mixture of very tiny solid and liquid particles in the air, which come directly from tailpipes, smokestacks, and wood fires. Particle pollution can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, worsen asthma, and exacerbate respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
Smog, also called ozone, is a colorless, odorless gas that is created in the atmosphere by gasses that come out of tailpipes and smokestacks and mix with warm air and sunshine. Smog burns the lungs and airways, causes chest pain and cough, aggravates asthma, and increases hospital visits for respiratory problems.

Air pollution is considered particularly dangerous to children, seniors, and people with asthma and other chronic lung and heart disease. Dr. Pennoyer added, “Let’s face it, we all pay the price for every asthma attack, every trip to the emergency room, and every heart attack that is brought about by unhealthy air. These costs are just spread across the system. Maine families and businesses need healthy air to grow and succeed. And that’s why we mustn’t delay taking action to clean up our air.”

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