Why I Keep Fighting

Before I begin discussing a matter that affects us all, I want to thank my Econesting followers for supporting environmental issues.

OK, deep breath...

As many of you know, I'm concerned about pollution. Air, water, land...you name it, I'll fight for it. Clean air is a complicated issue made messier and mushier by politics. It shouldn't have to be that way, but it is.

I get that we need jobs. I get that we need power.

What I also get is that we need healthy people to create the jobs that create the power.

Here's the rub: sacrificing jobs for health is not the issue. We can have jobs and breathe clean air. And history has proven that our politicians can make nice and come together on an environmental issue that the majority of people want...clean air.

The Clean Air Act was signed into effect in 1970 by a bi-partisan Congress. In 1990 President Bush called for the EPA to address mercury and other dangerous air pollutants. The rule to eliminate this poison has been in the making for 21 years. Now the polluter lobby is pressuring the White House to weaken, or add gaping loopholes to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

Mercury is a terrible neurotoxin. Our littlest creatures: infants, toddlers and even our pets are especially vulnerable to mercury poisoning.

Where does the mercury come from? Coal-fired power plants emit half of all toxic mercury pollution in the U.S. and over 386,000 tons of other hazardous air pollution every year.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule is one of the most important clean air regulations to ever come out of the EPA. It would reduce mercury, arsenic, acid gases, and other hazardous air pollution from America’s oldest and most polluting coal-fired power plants. Such a great regulation that uses American engineering, and creates jobs—without harming the economy. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards would prevent 17,000 premature deaths every year.

Why do I keep fighting? Because they are not going to stop...the polluters. A handful of coal utility companies, armed with powerful lobbyists, are urging the clean-up be delayed. They would like to ditch the EPA and weaken clean air standards for the most toxic pollutants.

Can we ask our lawmakers to take off the gloves and not pollute our natural resources? Yes! They must, and we must continue fighting for our children because they deserve a future with clean air, water and land.

Please tell President Obama that you support the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

Photo used with permission: Chris Scott Snyder

Now's The Time...

If you follow Econesting, you know I love children and I am passionate about the attacks on the Clean Air Act. I fear our kids will suffer if it is gutted. Not only do I write for the Environmental Defense Fund's Moms Clean Air Force, but as a parent of two children, a former teacher, and a Board of Trustee member of The Randolph School, I care deeply about the future of our children. I am passing on some important and timely information from one of my favorite writers, Dominique Browning, who is the author of the blog, Slow Love Life and lead blogger of our amazing MCAF team. I hope you will join us in the fight for clean air. Thank you!

Countdown for Writing to the EPA by Dominique Browning

I don't want to nag, though we all know moms are great at that. But I'm going to remind everyone that as of Monday, August 1, we have only FOUR MORE DAYS to write to the EPA  in support of their NEW Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. This regulation will cut down the poisonous emissions from coal-fired electric plants. Fetuses, infants and toddlers are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of toxic coal pollution.

Pro-polluters have been working overtime to cut funding for the EPA and block anti-pollution regulations. They’re spending millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions–to protect their right to pollute!

Motherhood is powerful too. We have to make our voices heard.

This is only the beginning of our fight. Please join the Moms Clean Air Force now and make a difference for your kids.

Someday your children will thank you. Right now, you have to fight for them. Every day for four days, I'm going to nag–and include a great reason to write to the EPA now. But my A Number One Reason will always be the same: my two beloved sons, for whom I will always fight like a mama bear, Alex and Theo. I'll bet you feel the same way about yours.

Here are GREAT REASONS to write to the EPA now.

1. YOUR VOICE MATTERS. No politician wants to make a mom mad. The EPA needs to hear that you want it to protect your right to clean air. Sometimes being a great mom means being an active citizen.

2. WE’VE MADE IT EASY–AND YOU CAN FIND THE TIME. It is faster to write to the EPA than it is to change a diaper. Sometimes being a great mom means being an active citizen. Make your voice heard!

3. POLLUTION CONTROL MEANS MORE JOBS. Green jobs are rising dramatically. Retrofitting coal stacks with scrubbers means more jobs for people in the industry–and a stronger industry overall.

4. HOW DARE THEY HARM OUR BABIES! Fetuses, infants and toddlers are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of toxic pollution. Childhood cancers are on the rise. So are asthma attacks.  Pregnant women are warned against eating tuna fish because it is full of mercury. And polluters keep on fighting for their right to pollute.

Credit: Lainey Fink

Tracking Air Pollution: There’s An App For That!

There’s a breath of fresh air coming from that smartphone you covet in your purse or pocket. It can track air pollution exposure where you live. The National Institutes of Health recently funded a two-year grant to University at Buffalo for exploring data that will link air pollution to location with the study participants’ smartphones.

This app comes about at a time when smartphones and air pollution are on the rise. Smartphones contain a rich set of sensors that include cameras, GPS systems, compasses and accelerometers, and powerful communication capabilities. This has inspired phone technology companies to competitively clamor to create applications that allow their phone users to help monitor air quality. The smartphone app designed for this study will measure the person’s location frequently using the GPS receiver, and track air pollution right from the GPS.

"This project will develop a method that will improve our ability to estimate human exposures to air pollutants, and will improve public health by allowing researchers to more accurately measure human exposures and relate these exposures to health outcomes."

What is the purpose of the app?

The primary purpose is to provide research that links an individual’s health information to their air pollution exposure. The design of the app will give the user an instantaneous or near-instantaneous estimate of air pollution exposure.

How the app will work?

Data from the GPS will stream from the smartphone to researchers server. Scientists will use the information models of air pollution exposure based on person’s location, how close they are to a major road, how densely populated the area is; depending upon the particular time of day and time of year.

Why is it important to track air quality?

With asthma rates on the rise, and some politicians and CEO’s vying to delay, deregulate or ditch the Clean Air Act, research on air pollution and its health effects can help fuel the fight for clean air. Using residential addresses to measure pollutant exposures, researchers will be able to work with public officials to estimate and improve air pollution exposures in certain areas. It can provide for the data for stronger regulations for clean air.

What's in the air?

Power companies, most notably coal-fired power plants emit mercury, and 84 different hazardous air pollutants that cause adverse health effects. Here are just 5 nasty emissions:

1. Carbon Monoxide – Sources of carbon monoxide come from worn or poorly maintained combustion devices, vehicle exhaust and power plant emissions. Acute effects of carbon monoxide can be counted in the formation of carboxyhemoglobin in the blood, which inhibits oxygen intake. At moderate concentrations, angina, impaired vision, and reduced brain function may result. At higher concentrations, CO exposure can be fatal.

2. Nitrous Oxides - From vehicle and smokestack exhaust compromises lung functions and can cause respiratory and viral illness. This is exacerbated in children.

3. VOCs - VOCs react with sunlight and nitrous oxide to form ground level ozone. This is capable of traveling thousands of miles. Once the VOC’s hit ground level, health conditions such as asthma and lung disease are adversely affected.

4. Sulphur Dioxide - Created by the combustion of fossil fuels containing sulphur compounds, contributes to various lung conditions even at moderate levels of concentration.

5. Fine Particles and Soot - Dusts, sulphates and nitrates are emitted from road traffic and power plants. These fine particles can be carcinogenic. They easily pass through the lungs into the bloodstream, causing inflammation and serious conditions, particularly in children and animals.

On the horizon…

For smartphones in the Los Angeles area running the Android system, the experimental Visibility app is being tested near a conventional air pollution monitoring station. The iSmog app by Apple similarly displays a map of smoggy air and air pollution alerts in the Bay area.

Exposure to air pollutants is largely beyond one individual's control. It will require action at the regional, national, international levels…and each and every one of us. By joining the Moms Clean Air Force, you can help us advocate for the need to continue providing technology tracking, which will assist in eradicating air pollution for our children.

The more we study, track and regulate air pollution, the easier our kids will breathe.

Credit: iTunes

Worth Fighting For

I visited my mom for her birthday last week. She always possessed a practical, no-nonsense attitude. Mom is the personification of a hip 80 year-old, but she reminds me often that growing up during the Depression gives her an edge of realism. Her mind is as sharp as a tack, so even at her advanced age, she’s truly light years ahead of her pack. Mom is still a voice of reason.

Since Mom’s body is not as sprite as her intellect, she walks and walks to keep fit. As she was preparing for a recent trip to visit relatives in Spain, Mom tells me, “I’m walking longer everyday to get ready for the trip. When I want something bad enough, like staying healthy, I become an advocate for it. I’m fighting to keep my mobility. As long as I can still breathe, there’s always something worth fighting for.”

What comes to mind when you hear the word advocacy? I asked Mom to define it: “Advocacy is the efforts and struggles of one person or a group of individuals to take action.”

I shared my mom’s vision of advocacy when I was a teacher. When a parent came to me with the notion their child had been wronged by the system, I would say, “I will help you, but you are your child's best advocate. No one else can fight their battles like you can.”

Whether we advocate for ourselves, like my mom is doing to stay fit, or we take on the school system like I suggested to parents whose children were not being well served, or we band together collectively for our children’s future health, like my friend and MCAF colleague, Dominique describes in Applesauce And Mercury In Fish: The Connection, the focused goal is to ensure that something important gets done.

In the case of clean air, advocacy is a handy word and a powerful tool. To ensure that our children's future includes clean air, how about we put advocacy into action? Believe me, you’ll be in good company with the League of Women Voters, National Audubon Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, World Wildlife Fund, and over 200 other groups…lest not forget the 75% of voters who support clean air.

Want to learn how to advocate for clean air? The Moms Clean Air Force is an advocacy group. We will help you. This is our job. But, you’ve got to take the first steps…

3 Steps To Effective Advocacy and 3 Ways To Support Clean Air

Present clear reasons for your requests Here you go: 1. Your Family’s Health 2. The Economy 3. The Environment

Provide accurate and helpful information Here you go: 1. What are the benefits of the Clean Air Act? 2. Why is cleaning up the mercury in coal plants important? 3. Why do power companies need regulations?

Share what you know with others for support Here you go: 1. Tell the EPA you support the new Mercury and Air Toxic Standards. 2. Join the Moms Clean Air Force and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Don’t forget to tell your friends to follow too! 3. If you blog, please add this badge to your side bar to show your support: MomsCleanAirForce

When mom came home from Spain, she was immensely proud that she had kept up with the rest of the family. She chided, “You just need to advocate for what you want and then go out and get it.”

Who is your child’s best clean air advocate? You are.

Credit: Beth Hoeckel via Anthology

5 Scientists (and Dr. Oz) Make Clean Air Sense

Scientists are not political big shots, or the rock stars of the environmental movement. They are concerned citizens like you and I who set out to systematically discover and document answers to pressing scientific queries. Doctors, nurses, researchers and professors devote their lives to making the world a better place for our families.

Earlier this year, more than 2,500 U.S. scientists sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to reject legislation that would gut the EPA of its protective safeguards and ignore the human toll that inaction would take on their citizens. Here is an excerpt from the Scientists’ Statement.

“We urge you (Congress) to oppose attacks on the Clean Air Act by respecting the scientific integrity of the EPA’s endangerment finding, and the agency’s authority to act based on this finding.”

We trust these smart folks with the health of our children. Scientists know that stripping the EPA of its ability to protect our children against environmental pollutants means more asthma attacks, more respiratory illnesses and disease, and more premature deaths. They are well aware that in the past 40 years, the Clean Air Act has prevented 400,000 premature deaths and hundreds of millions of cases of respiratory diseases, which is why…

1. The Lung Doctor - Dr. Albert A. Rizzo of the American Lung Association and a pulmonary and critical care physician, responded to the release of American Electric Power’s evaluation of the impact of Clean Air Act pollution protections:

“Continuing to belch hazardous pollutants into the air we breathe is not an acceptable business practice and neither is threatening rate hikes and electricity shortages when big polluters are asked to clean up their toxic emissions. The EPA’s proposed mercury and air toxics reduction rule will prevent 17,000 premature deaths and 120,000 asthma attacks each year. Yet, American Electric Power (AEP) is irresponsibly attempting to scare Americans away from demanding that their children no longer be exposed to dangerous levels of pollutants like mercury and arsenic, and other toxic pollutants. Clean Air Act protections do not mandate the closing of power plants but rather set standards that many energy companies have met using existing technologies to successfully rein in dangerous pollutants. The imperative to clean up is strong: these toxins are directly linked to grave health problems, from developmental complications in babies and young children, to asthma attacks and long-term lung complications. After more than two decades of delay, big polluters and their friends in Congress want further delays rather than investing in pollution cleanup.”

2. The Pediatrician - Dr. Jerome A. Paulson, for the American Academy of Pediatrics, testified last week at the Senate's Clean Air Act and Public Health hearing. The whole testimony is powerful, but here’s his statement on the effects of mercury on children:

“As a pediatrician who has cared for children suffering from the health impacts of air pollution, I am incredibly concerned about threats to clean air and the effect of air pollution on children’s health…The developing fetus and young children are disproportionately affected by methyl mercury exposure, because many aspects of development, particularly brain maturation, can be disturbed by the presence of methyl mercury. Minimizing mercury exposure is essential to optimal child health.”

3. The Science Professor Dr. Arden Pope, a Brigham Young University epidemiologist who led a New England Journal of Medicine study, found that efforts to reduce fine particle pollution from automobiles, diesel engines, steel mills and coal-fired power plants have added between four and eight months to the average American’s life expectancy:

“It’s stunning that the air pollution effect seems to be as robust as it is…However, the continuing problem demonstrates that more remains to be done, especially in cleaning up coal-fired power plants and existing diesel engines.”

4. The Heart Doctor - Dr. Robert Brook is the lead author of The American Heart Association (AHA) report stating that there is strong evidence that air pollution can clog arteries, and cause strokes and heart attacks.

“Particulate matter appears to directly increase risk by triggering events in susceptible individuals within hours to days of an increased level of exposure, even among those who otherwise may have been healthy for years.”

5. The Energy Scientist - Steve Clemmer, the Director of Energy Research for the 
Union of Concerned Scientists claims that limiting coal, gas and nuclear power, and boosting the renewable energy practices of wind and solar, could meet 27% of America’s electricity needs by 2030:

“Unlike natural gas, coal or nuclear plants, wind and solar plants don’t produce air or water pollution, global warming emissions or waste products, and use much less water.”

Oh, there is a rock star scientist…and he knows Oprah!

Dr. Oz says:

“It’s sobering news that one in five people still live in communities with lethal levels of smog and particulate pollution — the toxic soup of chemicals, metals, acids, ash and soot that triggers asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes and early deaths. Makes you want to close the windows, bar the door and stay home.”

The science proves that that Clean Air Act is the bedrock that protects our children from pollution that otherwise would make their lives shorter or less healthy. For the sake of our kids, does it make sense to debunk and diminish the warnings of scientists?

Here’s how to speak up…or forever hold your breath:

Join the Moms Clean Air Force and help us fight for clean air for our kids. We need your voice! If you haven't already, please email the EPA to show your support of the new Mercury and Air Toxics rule. Thanks!

Credit: Anne Burgess for the New York Times