HARRISBURG, Pa. – Climate change is making it harder to protect human health, according to a new report. The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2019 report says more than 141 million Americans live in counties that got an “F” for unhealthy air, an increase of 7 million over last year’s report.
Transportation is now the major source of greenhouse-gas emissions and Pennsylvania is one of more than a dozen states that follow California’s standards for vehicle emissions, which are stricter than federal standards. Citing purported higher vehicle costs and safety compromises, the Trump administration wants to freeze vehicle emission standards at 2020 levels and eliminate states’ ability to impose tougher limits.
But the administration’s cost and safety claims have been disproved, and Donald Hahn, the mayor of State College, believes states should be allowed to take the lead in setting those emission standards.
“We’re talking about not only the health of Pennsylvanians but we’re also talking about jobs because essentially the job trends nationwide tend to be in favor of better environmental-protection technologies,” Hahn said.
Pennsylvania has joined at least 16 other states in a lawsuit seeking to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from rolling back emission standards.
Smog-forming ozone and particulate air pollution have severe impacts on children, seniors, and people with heart disease, asthma or other respiratory ailments. But Hahn pointed out anyone can suffer the negative effects.
“One of the ironies is that it seems to target people who are most likely to exercise as well,” he said. “Their exposure is increased by outdoor activity.”
Allegheny County, which ranked seventh out of 203 metropolitan areas nationwide for particulate pollution, is home to more than 100,000 adults with asthma.
The State of the Air report card gave a dozen Pennsylvania counties an “F” for air quality. Hahn said people in the state are aware of the problem.
“Pennsylvanians are concerned about it and they want to have the local controls to do something about it,” he said. “Unfortunately, it seems like Washington doesn’t want them to address it.”
The full American Lung Association State of the Air Report is online at Lung.org.