Report: Tampa Bay area is number one! (In smog, soot)

click to enlarge Debilitating respiratory condition that prevents me from doing the vigorous physical activity that I love? As long as helps a power company executive be even richer. - Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Debilitating respiratory condition that prevents me from doing the vigorous physical activity that I love? As long as helps a power company executive be even richer.

Along with calling on members of Congress to stand up to the Trump administration's slashing of environmental protections, the group Environment Florida on Thursday released results of a study that delved into air quality data from across the country reported over a one-year period.

Their conclusion?

That while regulations on corporate polluters have helped clean up the air we breathe, they could still be a lot better — which the amount of cases of asthma and other environment-related illnesses might suggest. But instead of seeking to further reduce it, environmental groups said during a press conference on the steps of St. Petersburg City Hall, the Trump administration is cutting back regulations meant to curb pollution.

That may be good for corporate profits, but for people who enjoy the occasional functional respiratory system, it is not ideal.

"When our air is polluted, we can't just choose not to breathe it. Exposure to air pollution increases our risk of suffering health problems ranging from premature death to asthma attacks to respiratory illness,” said Turner Lott, an organizer with Environment Florida “Burning dirty fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas threatens our health. It's time to shift to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”

The study compared the number of days various metro areas had higher-than-normal smog or soot in the air., which can make it tough for people with asthma and related illnesses to function if any aspect of their day involves being outside.

Western cities in areas like Southern California fared the worst, and major metro areas in the east weren't too far behind.

Cities in Florida had comparatively fewer high-pollution days than those. But the Tampa area, which was by far the worst offender in the state according to the study, had 56 days where smog levels were elevated and 86 days where there was excessive soot.

Environmental advocates say they're afraid that jettisoning regulations will lead to many more terrible-air-quality days, which will lead to more people getting sick (but, hey, at least they'll still be able to have insurance for now).

Environment Florida estimates that Trump's gutting of environmental regulators and regulations, like cutting the EPA budget by 31 percent and abolishing the nascent Clean Power Plan, could lead to 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 cases of asthma in children, 300,000 missed work and school days by 2030. (Those are things, notably, that would likely cost corporations money, what with sick and bereavement leave and all.)

Joining Lott at the podium were St. Pete Councilman Karl Nurse, representatives from Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist's district office and Karen Lieberman, an asthma sufferer who said she came down with the condition while living near the steel mills of Gary, Indiana.

“Air pollution will get worse unless the cars get cleaner and the utility plants get cleaner,” said Nurse on the specter of the Clean Power Plan going away. "To roll back that effort would ensure that it would be harder for hundreds of thousands of people in this area to breathe, and people will get various diseases. People who have asthma and trouble breathing on even good days will have a worse situation.”

Lieberman said in Gary, there were more days during which the air was unhealthy to breathe than not, and that she doesn't want to see the rest of the country become that way.

“Why shouldn't the public have clean air? Why should asthmatics and others with lung diseases have to stay inside for days at a time? How can we even consider loosening air quality regulations?" she said. "How can we not consider regulating industry emissions? Allowing polluted air and not controlling air quality is unfair to everyone. Polluted air causes lung problems. I often wonder what air those legislators plan to breathe.”

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