Doug Michael, Executive Director of Healthy Acadia, speakd at the press conference in Augusta on February 13, 2013, that unveiled the Healthy Air Agenda
HEALTHY ACADIA AND PARTNERS URGE ACTION ON HEALTHY AIR AGENDA TO PROTECT MAINERS FROM DANGEROUS AIR POLLUTION
February 15, 2013

(AUGUSTA) Healthy Acadia and its partners from the American Lung Association and Healthy Air Coalition believe that too many Maine children and seniors are getting sick from out-of-state air pollution, and they’ve got a plan to do something about it. Calling it the “Healthy Air Agenda,” the partners held a press conference in Augusta on Wednesday, February 13, and unveiled a four-point blueprint for cleaning up the air.

“Just as Maine has the highest adult asthma rate in the nation, the Downeast-Acadia region has some of the highest asthma rates in Maine, in large part due to out-of-state air pollution,” said Doug Michael, Executive Director of Healthy Acadia, a non-profit Community Health Coalition and a Healthy Maine Partnership serving Hancock and Washington Counties. “In Downeast Maine, we are the tail end of the tailpipe. We urge our elected leaders to take action now on the Healthy Air Agenda, to clean up the out-of-state smokestacks and get dangerous smog, carbon, mercury and lead out of our air.”

The Lung Association’s introduction of the Healthy Air Agenda comes on the heels of President Obama’s State of the Union address this week, in which he prioritized action on the pollutants that cause climate change.

The Healthy Air Agenda calls for a clean-up of coal-fired power plants, which are considered the biggest source of the carbon pollution that is linked to climate change and a major source of other hazardous pollutants such as mercury, benzene, dioxins, and arsenic. Research shows that these can cause cancer and heart disease, harm the kidneys, lungs and nervous system, and even kill.

“Out-of-state smokestacks and tailpipes have put a bulls-eye on the backs of Maine children and seniors,” stated Dr. Marguerite Pennoyer, a physician practicing Allergy & Immunology. “But by putting stronger science-based standards in place, many of the health and economic impacts of dangerous air pollution could be prevented.”

The Healthy Air Agenda recommends action on tailpipe pollution by reducing the amount of sulfur in gasoline and setting tighter pollution limits on new vehicles. The Agenda also calls on Congress to reject across-the-board-cuts that could be triggered by the “fiscal cliff” budget impasse, as these cuts could significantly hamper efforts to monitor air quality and clean up dirty air.

“I can tell you first-hand how much asthma affects your life, limits your activities, and leaves you feeling vulnerable on days when the air quality is bad,” said Mary Trescot, who is the Executive Director of Youth Promise in Newcastle and has severe asthma on hot summer days. “It’s no way to live as an adult, and it’s certainly no way for kids to grow up.”

Joining in the Healthy Air Coalition’s efforts, State Representative Dennis Keschl, a Republican from Belgrade and former Director of the Maine Air Bureau, announced a Joint Resolution calling on Congress to protect and defend the Clean Air Act from roll-backs, delays, or outright blocks to science-base standards.

“The reality is, we don’t have to choose between improving public health and helping our economy innovate and grow,” said Rep. Keschl. “What the Lung Association has introduced is a simple, common sense path to healthier air. And it will put us another step closer to getting health costs under control – currently the #1 concern among Maine businesses.”

The Healthy Acadia Coalition recently passed a Resolution in Support of the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act is recognized to be an essential tool to reduce cross-state air pollution, and it has helped prevent 160,000 premature deaths and 1.7 million asthma attacks. For more information, visit Healthy Acadia’s website: www.healthyacadia.org.

The Maine Healthy Air Coalition, a group of 55 statewide and local health care and public health organizations led by the Lung Association and including Healthy Acadia, called on Maine Senators Collins and King, and Representatives Michaud and Pingree to sign on to the Healthy Air Agenda and start taking immediate action in Congress to limit the dangerous air pollutants that cross state lines and drift into Maine.

“Unhealthy air threatens our health, our economy and our way of life. People come to Maine for our clean air and water, our beautiful landscapes, our abundant natural resources, and our enjoyable way of life. Farmers and fishermen make their living here, and cutting edge research and biotechnology firms locate their businesses here,” stated Doug Michael of Healthy Acadia. “It’s shortsighted and irresponsible to jeopardize our state’s economic future. Worse yet, it is unacceptable and unconscionable to put a child or older adult at risk.”

Research shows that the two most widespread air pollutants, particle pollution and ozone, can lead to serious health effects. Particle pollution is a mixture of very tiny solid and liquid particles in the air, which come directly from tailpipes, smokestacks, and wood fires. Particle pollution can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, worsen asthma, and exacerbate respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

Smog, also called ozone, is a colorless, odorless gas that is created in the atmosphere by gasses that come out of tailpipes and smokestacks and mix with warm air and sunshine. Smog burns the lungs and airways, causes chest pain and cough, aggravates asthma, and increases hospital visits for respiratory problems.

Air pollution is considered particularly dangerous to children, seniors, and people with asthma and other chronic lung and heart disease.

“The Healthy Air Agenda is about smokestacks, tailpipes, research & enforcement, and no weakening or delays to Clean Air Act standards,” stated Effie Craven, Coordinator for the Maine Healthy Air Coalition. “In recent years the Clean Air Act has come under attack in Congress. It’s time to end the attacks on the Clean Air Act and start advancing a Healthy Air Agenda.”

Dr. Pennoyer added, “Let’s face it, we all pay the price for every asthma attack, every trip to the emergency room, and every heart attack that is brought about by unhealthy air. These costs are just spread across the system. Maine families and businesses need healthy air to grow and succeed. And that’s why we mustn’t delay taking action to clean up our air.”