Trouble in the Air: Portland’s health at risk with 37 dirty air days in 2016

For Immediate Release

Portland – As the Trump administration considers weakening federal air quality and global warming emissions standards, air pollution remains a threat to public health. According to a new report by Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center 2,423,102 people in the greater Portland area experienced 37 days of degraded air quality in 2016, increasing the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.

“All Oregonians should be able to breathe clean air. Even one day with polluted air is too many,” said Celeste Meiffren-Swango, State Director with Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center. “To make dirty air days a thing of the past, we need to strengthen existing air quality protections and reduce global warming pollution.”

For the report, Trouble in the Air: Millions of Americans Breathe Polluted Air, Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center, Frontier Group and OSPIRG Foundation, reviewed Environmental Protection Agency records of air pollution levels across the country, focusing on smog and particulate pollution – harmful pollutants that come from burning fossil fuels such as coal, diesel, gasoline and natural gas.

“We know that there can be serious health consequences related to community air pollution and that children are disproportionately affected, particularly those who live in urban areas,” said Dr. Melissa Weddle, a Pediatrician at Doernbecher Children's Hospital.

“There's no safe level of exposure to smog and particulate pollution,” said Elizabeth Ridlington, Policy Analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of the report. "Even low levels of smog and particulate pollution are bad for health and can increase deaths."

These troubling findings come at a time when the Trump administration prepares to weaken the federal clean car standards, a critical program to cut global warming emissions and increase fuel efficiency.

The report’s authors called on the federal government to strengthen, not weaken, the clean car standards and continue to allow states to adopt stronger vehicle pollution standards. The authors also called on EPA to strengthen ozone and particulate pollution standards.

“To protect our health, we must keep cutting smog, particulate pollution and global warming emissions,” said Meiffren-Swango. “We must accelerate our progress, not hit the brakes on effective programs like the federal clean car standards.”

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Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. https://environmentoregoncenter.org/.