To air is human ...

Proposed New Clean Air Standards are up for public debate

by Carolyn Chase
he federal Environmental Protec- tion Agency has proposed stricter limits on ozone a major component of smog and "particulate matter" (PM2.5) tiny particles produced by coal-burning power plants, steel mills and motor vehicles burning diesel fuel. Although the proposed limits are supported locally by the Lung Association, Citizen's for Clean Air Policy and the Sierra Club, San Diego Mayor Susan Golding testified against raising these standards before a Congressional House subcommittee during Earth Week.

Despite the fact that San Diego County currently exceeds the federal and state health standards for smog and the state standard for fine particulate (known as PM10) air pollution, Golding said the San Diego area's current efforts have proven more than adequate in reducing air pollution.

"The emission reductions well is dry," Golding said. "Any future minimal reductions from stationary sources can only come from drilling the well deeper into smaller businesses or industries with small emissions such as biotechnology, electronics or agriculture. And at what cost?"

The EPA, she said, "should withdraw the proposed standards ... and further scientifically analyze the potential health benefits."

Locals disagree

Golding's testimony was criticized by Jan Cortez, program director of the American Lung Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties. "We feel very strongly that the new ozone standards are needed to protect San Diegans' health," she said. National representatives of the ALA stated, "polluters have begun a multi-million dollar lobbying and propaganda effort to kill new health standards. These polluters would put their private profits ahead of the public good and the health of tens of millions of Americans." The ALA added that even the new standards "would still leave 89 million people potentially exposed to dangerous levels of deadly particle pollution."

Local Sierra Club volunteers collected more than 1,200 post cards at the EarthFair in Balboa Park to send to President Clinton in support of the proposed health-based standards. Research reported by the Club contradicts Golding's fears that standards will cost too much. For example, research shows that rather than costing agriculture, farmers will benefit under new clean air standards. New standards will help protect farmers and workers who have to work outdoors, as well as reduce crop damage from air pollution.

Air pollution causes crop damage even at levels below the current, legal standard. Studies show that smog significantly reduces the yield of key commodity crops. According to the National Crop Loss Assessment Network Ozone Study, reduced crop yields from dirty air annually cost our country one billion bushels of corn and more than two hundred million bushels of soybeans.

In California, the agriculture sector is already experiencing problems caused by air pollution. In January, 1997, the San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Study Policy Committee released a final report showing that smog can affect the yield and weight of some of the Valley's most important cash crops, including cotton, grapes, oranges, nuts and some stone fruit. Research by the Air Resource Board in California shows that San Joaquin Valley agriculture loses nearly $1 billion annually from the effects of air pollution.

The locally-based non-profit Citizen's for Clean Air Policy, has also submitted comments on the proposed standards. They state, "Recent scientific studies have shown that current standards are too weak to protect children and adults with asthma and too weak to protect healthy adults who exercise outdoors." Their comments continue, "The EPA's proposal to strengthen national ambient air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter is a progressive measure in equalizing the efforts of other states to meet the current, more stringent California programs already in place."

Clarifying for Earth Day

Golding used the City Council hearing for Earth Day to clarify her remarks by stating, "I'm in favor of clean air, live with an asthmatic, and my family has allergies. But we need a regional approach with the best possible science."

Positive alternatives

CCAP is promoting a new bill introduced in the State Senate: the "Heavy-Duty Vehicle Air Quality Improvement Program." SB1096 would offer financial incentives and tax credits for the switch to cleaner fuels in heavy-duty vehicles and for refueling stations to support those vehicles. Although heavy-duty vehicles comprise only about 8 percent of the vehicles on the road, they emit nearly 60 percent of the unhealthy pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) into the air.

CCAP believes that improved standards, combined with programs such as those in SB1096, will create new jobs and clear the air at the same time. The best answer is not to protest against health standards but find productive ways to incentivize the transition to cleaner fuels and higher air quality standards and create jobs in the process.

To support SB1096, contact your State Senate or Assembly Member. The address for all members is Sacramento CA 95814. For more information or for assistance in identifying your state representatives, call Jim Bartell or David Jacobs at CCAP at (619) 687-7000.

Individuals interested in commenting on the proposed Clean Air Standards can contact your federal representatives by calling the Capitol Switchboard, (202) 224-3121.

May is Clean Air Month

provided by American Lung Assocation of San Diego & Imperial Counties

he purpose of Clean Air Month is to increase the community's attention to the importance of improving and protecting the quality of the air we breathe and to increase public awareness that healthful air is each person's responsibility and right.

Currently, San Diego County exceeds the federal and state health standards for smog and the state standard for particulate (known as PM10) air pollution.

The people at greatest risk are children, the elderly, asthmatics, those with chronic pulmonary disease, heart disease and heavy outdoor exercisers. Children are particularly sensitive to air pollution due to exposure to irritants during exercise and their inhalation of greater amounts of air per surface areas of their lungs, compared to adults. In children under two years of age, the ability to protect lungs against foreign particles and gases is not fully developed.

Activities during the month will include: "Get a Tune-Up Day (May 22), Bike to Work Day (May 22), and Clean Commute Day (May 30)

More information is available on the American Lung Association Website at or by calling (619) 297-3901.

 Sensitive Groups

 Number of San Diegans

 Children under 13  576,566
 People over 65  273,222
 Children with asthma  44,953
 Adults with chronic bronchitis or emphysema  140,269

As you can see from these numbers, around one-third of San Diego County's 2.3 million residents are most at risk from the effects oif air pollution.