Prevent Air Pollution Diseases for Children and Disadvantaged Communities

Target: William Wehrum, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation

Goal: Don’t allow major air polluters to avoid regulations and increase emissions.

The EPA issued a memorandum that will allow major air polluters to increase emissions and avoid following strict air quality standards. Before, once a facility was classified as a major polluter, it had to decrease emissions and its potential to emit hazardous pollutants for life. Now, the EPA is scrapping this policy and is allowing major polluters to be reclassified as non-major polluters, authorizing facilities to bypass strict standards which have been helping to improve public health for the last few decades under the Clean Air Act. Consequently, an increase in hazardous air pollutants will lead to an increase in air-related diseases.

Poor air quality contributes to an astonishing health cost of over $100 billion in the United States alone. More than 37 million children live in areas with unhealthy air due to soot or smog pollution, leading to brain development impairments, respiratory illnesses such as asthma, and childhood cancer. Within all the disadvantaged communities living in proximity to major polluters, children are the most susceptible to diseases because their bodies are still developing. In addition, they inhale more air and ingest more dust and soil on a body-weight basis in comparison to adults, making them even more vulnerable to pollution-caused conditions.

What’s more, there are at least 13,000 premature deaths in the U.S. per year and a tall list of diseases, illnesses, and health-related incidents that occur due to air pollution.

Weakening regulations for polluters should not be an option. This will derail decades of progress in public health and air quality. While hundreds to thousands of facilities will profit, hundreds of thousands of people will suffer. Toxic heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, and lead will find their way into our waterways, soils, and bodies. The costs are heavy, and should be considered under an ethical lens. Sign the petition below to show the EPA that we will not stand for this environmental injustice.


Dear Mr. Wehrum,

The EPA recently issued a memorandum giving major air polluters an incredibly wide leeway when it comes to emissions. By pulling back a policy that held polluters accountable and limited emissions, the EPA is essentially dismantling decades of progress in public health. It is part of your duty as the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation to be an ambassador for public health and well-being. Major polluters and future polluters should not have the luxury to be reclassified as non-major polluters and avoid strict regulations. However, hundreds of thousands of people living in communities with bad air quality should not have to endure even worse conditions in addition to pollution-caused diseases.

These diseases and illnesses include asthma, heart attacks, cancer, bronchitis, infertility, and impaired child development. In more than 13,000 cases a year, poor air quality leads to premature deaths in the U.S. alone. Saving facilities money through lax regulations is not reason enough to sentence millions of people to bad health, nor is it enough to jeopardize our air, waterways, soils, and ecosystems. I ask you to reconsider and recommend that the EPA reverse this decision.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Kaniza Garari

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