by Editorial Staff | September 14, 2018
- Healthy Air
- Healthy Air
From Anne Arundel County to Prince George's County, many Maryland counties earned an "F" on the American Lung Association's annual "State of the Air" report for ozone pollution. Baltimore now ranks as the 17th most ozone-polluted metropolitan area in the United States.
While the United States has made incredible progress in cleaning up harmful air pollution in recent decades, climate change makes cleaning up air pollution increasingly difficult. Rising temperatures increase the formation of ozone pollution, and this can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks, and even cause early death. While everyone is at risk from breathing ozone pollution, the 200,000 Maryland children and 693,000 adults with asthma, our seniors, and all people with respiratory illnesses are especially vulnerable.
This is why, as a physician, I find it especially concerning that the Trump Administration is attempting to withdraw lifesaving health protections from every American, even as pollution worsens. The latest threat to our health is the effort to roll back federal clean car standards that limit vehicle pollution. Adopted in 2012, the cleaner cars program has proven itself successful in reducing carbon emissions and has shown to be more cost-effective than expected. Rolling back the program’s standards will only exacerbate the health burdens that we face as the climate changes.
We cannot afford to cut off the solution just as it starts working. Rather than pushing forward to stronger protections in 2025, which the current clean cars program would do, reports say that the Trump Administration wants to stall the standards. Transportation is already the largest single source of carbon pollution in the United States. It makes no sense to change vehicle rules now to allow more pollution.
The Trump Administration's plan doesn't stop there—it would also cut the legs out from under Maryland's ability to protect our own citizens. Under the Clean Air Act, states have the authority to enact stronger standards than the federal government's. Fortunately, Maryland did just that to ensure we have the most health-protective vehicle emission standards. Today, the health of Marylanders, as well as 100 million other Americans in clean car states, is protected from harmful pollutants by state policies that are stronger than the national standards. The Administration's plan would take away the rights of the states to protect their own citizens.
Maryland is fighting back: Attorney General Brian Frosh joined with 16 other states to sue the U.S. EPA to preserve the clean cars program, and mayors like Baltimore's Catherine Pugh and others across the state have joined in this fight. Governor Larry Hogan has voiced his opposition to the rollback.
State demands for less polluting vehicles have helped drive stronger federal standards, too. Given the decades of hard-fought gains in cleaning up our air and reducing climate pollution, it should be shocking to everyone that the Trump Administration has decided to reverse course and add more pollution to the air we breathe.
Our nation's leaders must do more, not less to protect public health. We need to stand together and tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to act like an agency tasked with the protection of the environment that we all depend on for our health. While pollution knows no boundaries and affects us all, the most vulnerable populations of our state are due to be worse off if pollution protections are rolled back.
I ask that Maryland's leaders join me in speaking out louder than ever before against this threat to our health, to our future and to Maryland's ability to protect our families from unhealthy air. Please share this blog if you agree.
Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos is a pulmonary and critical care fellow in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He co-founded Medicine for the Greater Good, whose volunteers work with schools, churches and community centers in Baltimore to promote good health practices throughout the city.
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