A day after the Environmental Protection Agency announced new air quality standards, the advocacy group Moms Clean Air Force held its inaugural “Climate Disruption, Air Pollution, and Young People’s Health” summit this week in Washington.
The EPA says the new air quality standards will better protect Americans from particulate matter, or soot, and save lives.
“Air pollution is real. Soot pollution is one of the most dangerous pollutions and strengthening this standard will not only protect our children and most vulnerable populations – but healthy people equal a healthy economy” , EPA Administrator Michael Regan told ABC. News.
“We held this summit so we could bring together parents and the press – people to understand how children need to be put at the center of the climate conversation. We are talking about toxic chemicals, air pollution and climate disruption,” said Dominique Browning. , director and co-founder of Moms Clean Air Force told ABC News. “And children are especially vulnerable to these dangerous, dangerous impacts of these things. Therefore, we need to create policies and laws that take children’s special needs into account.”
Regan also noted the disproportionate impact air pollution has on communities of color. African Americans contract respiratory illnesses, including asthma, lung disease and lung cancer, at a higher rate than their white counterparts, according to the National Library of Medicine. The likelihood of contracting these diseases, and their severity, increases with exposure to air pollution. It’s a problem Regan says the EPA is addressing.
“President Biden has made environmental justice a central pillar of this administration. He is the first president to speak about environmental justice during the State of the Union,” Regan said.
“And so, with that responsibility, I created the first national environmental justice and outdoor civil rights program. More than 200 EPA employees are focused exclusively on ensuring that everything we do regarding air quality, water quality, cleaning up our lands, be done in ways that protect our most vulnerable, our ej (environmental justice) communities, our black and brown and tribal communities. I’m very excited about the work of this administration. And through the Inflation Reduction Act, more than $3 billion…is exclusively focused on environmental justice and climate equity,” he said.
The event, held at the National Press Club, drew doctors, government officials, mental health experts and environmental advocates for discussions about the intersection of climate change, air pollution and public health.
Regan noted how her agency has partnered with organizations including Moms Clean Air Force to create new environmental standards, such as the updated particulate matter pollution benchmark announced Wednesday.
“It’s a very proud announcement for us to make, and the partnership with organizations like Clean Moms Air Force and others just reinforces the fact that we are trying to protect our children,” Regan told ABC News.
Clinton Foundation Vice President Chelsea Clinton, whose work includes the “Too Small to Fail” initiative for early childhood development, spoke at the summit. She told ABC News there are many different ways parents can keep their children safe.
She highlighted protections against infectious diseases, injuries and school safety drills, adding: “But now we have to think about helping keep our children safe from climate change.”
Clinton highlighted what parents can do about heat and air pollution.
“Our children don’t have the same lung capacity as us to help breathe, clean air, and so they’re really vulnerable to air pollution,” Clinton said. “And so what are we doing to help clean the air with ventilation in space and in the places where we spend time – and what are we doing to help support, hopefully, less air pollution in the future?”
Liz Hurtado, national field manager for Moms Clean Air Force, attended the event with one of her daughters, Lena, the organization’s children’s spokesperson.
Hurtado said they were attending the summit to help “seek stronger solutions and protections” against air pollution.
Several members of Moms Clean Air Force emphasized to ABC News what they called the organization’s nonpartisan stance.
“This doesn’t need to be a political issue. It really impacts everyone, regardless of party, regardless of any of the differences we may see out there,” said Hurtado. “It’s an issue that affects all of us, whether we realize it or not, and that’s why we really pride ourselves on the educational component, really laying the foundation of education in the many ways it can impact your community or the state that you’re in. .”
“There is no blue or red when we talk about children’s health,” she added.
Patrice Tomcik, national field director for Moms Clean Air Force, said climate change is personal to her, noting the impact she says she has experienced at home in southwestern Pennsylvania.
“There’s a lot of air pollution and we’re already seeing a lot of the effects of climate change with stronger storms, more flooding – a lot more flooding,” Tomcik said, claiming that oil and gas operations in his community are creating a concern about the health of residents.
“This is happening in my community. And the closest [oil] the wells are about half a mile from my children’s schools,” she said. “When they’re actually doing this drilling for fossil fuels, what’s also coming out is climate-warming methane and also other health-harming pollutants. And so children who are exposed to these pollutants, like my son, who goes to school nearby, it’s really a concern for their health.”
According to its website, the organization currently has 1.5 million members, both mothers and fathers, working to combat air pollution.