The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is holding three public hearings about its proposal to update the national air quality standards for ground-level ozone, which is more commonly known as smog.
Lindsay Meghan Pace from Chattanooga is so concerned about the serious health risks from smog that she joined Moms Clean Air Force -- a group working to reduce air pollution and protect kids’ health. Moms Clean Air Force has more than 6,000 members in Tennessee.
“My family lives in Chattanooga, a city that is steeped in the history of industrial pollution,” said Ms. Pace in her testimony. “Some people believe that because you can’t see smog like you used to in Chattanooga, it must not be there, or worse, that it isn’t doing harm. And while I agree that Chattanooga has come a long way to today’s air quality standards, I respectfully disagree that we should stop at mediocre. Our children deserve better than mediocre.”
Here is Ms. Pace's full testimony:
"Good morning, my name is Lindsay Meghan Pace. I am the Tennessee field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, Tennessee. I represent over 6,000 members and their families from the great Volunteer state. We’re a community of parents that are unified in the knowledge that air pollution is affecting not only our children’s health but also their futures. I stand here today as a mom, a former teacher, and longtime advocate for our youngest citizens. I am speaking on behalf of their collective voice, for our children are the ones who bear the brunt of avoidable air toxins, like smog.
"My family lives in Chattanooga, a city that is steeped in the history of industrial pollution. In 1969, the EPA stated that Chattanooga was the most polluted city in America. The citizens were exposed to high levels of particulate matter and smog due to unregulated emissions from industry, coke foundries, and railroads. The topography of Chattanooga compounds this problem because it becomes trapped in our valley.
"Through my work, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to the stories of Chattanoogans who grew up in the age of unrestricted air pollution. While each story is unique, their sentiment is always the same. They literally saw their city transformed through aggressive city legislation, coupled with the Clean Air Act.
"Sometimes I am questioned as to why we need stronger ozone standards. These people believe that because you can’t see smog like you used to in Chattanooga, it must not be there, or worse, that it isn’t doing harm. And while I agree that Chattanooga has come a long way to today’s air quality standards, I respectfully disagree that we should stop at mediocre. Our children deserve better than mediocre.
"The science in unequivocal that smog is bad for human health. Breathing smog creates a host of lung and cardiac issues, it cuts lives short, and it’s a lung irritant. Children are especially vulnerable because their bodies are still developing, they breathe more rapidly, and they are more likely to be playing outside during high alert days.
"Ozone is also a powerful asthma trigger. Each year, thousands of children are sent to the emergency room because of smog induced asthma attacks. Growing up with a brother who suffered severely from asthma, I can recall too many occasions shrouded with worry and fear over his inability to perform the most basic of human functions, breathing.
"In 2014, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America respectively rated Memphis and Chattanooga the second and sixth worst metro cities for asthma in the country. And not shockingly, both these cities also received failing ozone grades from the American Lung Association. As a mom, this information alarms me!
"I am here today because when my daughter was first born I realized living my life as sustainably as possible was no longer enough. I realized that I couldn’t go out and buy her clean air to breathe.
"Right now, you have the opportunity to give my daughter, and all our children, cleaner air to breathe.
"I am urging you to set the ozone standard at 60 parts per billion- instead of the 65-70 you proposed in November. The scientific record demonstrates that this level would provide the strongest public health protections for Americans and most importantly for our children.
"Thank you so much for this opportunity."