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Turner Lott,
Environment Florida

Tampa Bay’s health at risk with 56 dirty air days in 2015

For Immediate Release

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Air pollution remains a major threat to our health, according to a new report from Environment Florida Research & Policy Center,”Our Health at Risk: Why Are Millions of Americans Still Breathing Unhealthy Air?,” released today on the steps of St. Petersburg City Hall alongside City Councilmember Karl Nurse, staff from U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist's office, and members of the community affected by asthma. In 2015, people here in Tampa Bay experienced 56 dirty air pollution days, increasing the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.

“Even one day with unhealthy air is too many,” said Turner Lott.

“We can’t afford to roll back these key environmental protections," said U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist. "More pollution and more climate change are direct threats to our community’s health, safety, energy independence, and economy.”

The report comes during National Public Health Week, a celebration of efforts to tackle the underlying causes of disease – like air pollution – and ensure that all people have a chance to live long and healthy lives.

Although our air is less polluted than it was 30 years ago, dirty air is still a major health problem. Despite that fact, President Trump is taking an axe to important programs that could help clean up our air. In just the last month, the Trump Administration has:

  • Instructed the EPA to rewrite the Clean Power Plan, the largest step the United States has ever taken to cut dangerous global warming pollution;
  • Proposed to cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent, a “get out of jail free card” for polluters;
  • Instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back federal clean cars standards that were supposed to prevent 6 billion metric tons of global warming pollution; and
  • Told the Department of Interior to rewrite air pollution regulations for oil and gas drilling.

These actions will have significant health impacts. Blocking the Clean Power Plan alone will slow progress in cleaning our air – leading to 3,600 additional premature deaths, 90,000 more asthma attacks in children, and 300,000 more missed work and school days by 2030.

Our Health at Risk reviews EPA records of air pollution levels across the country, focusing on smog and soot – dangerous pollutants that come from burning dirty fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. Key findings include:

  • People in the Tampa Bay area experienced 56 days with elevated smog pollution and 86 days with elevated soot pollution in 2015.
  • In fact, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater ranked 1st in the state for worst smog pollution in 2015, and 1st for soot.
  • Across Florida, 21 cities and metro areas had unhealthy levels of air pollution with an average of 17 dirty air days during 2015, including Miami, Tallahassee, and Gainesville.

Many Floridians may be exposed to air pollution even more severe than described here because they live in local pollution “hotspots,” such as near freeways, airports and industrial facilities – facing greater health impacts. For example, people who live near highly traveled roads are at increased risk of developing lung cancer, and at greater risk of death from stroke, lung disease and heart disease.

“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. "Elevated levels of air pollution – even levels the federal government says are safe for most people – hurt our health.”

Floridians from across the state are urging Florida’s elected leaders to stand up to attempts to weaken the Clean Air Act, to maintain the strength of the nation’s Clean Car Standards, and to accelerate our transition to clean energy.

“Senators Nelson and Rubio should stand up for clean air protection,” said Dr. Ankush Bansal. “In 2010 alone, these protections saved 160,000 lives, prevented 130,000 heart attacks and avoided 41,000 hospital admissions across America. To protect our health, we must keep cutting soot, smog and carbon pollution from fuels like coal and gas. It’s time we clean our air by moving to 100 percent clean, renewable energy across our whole society. We must accelerate our progress, not hit the brakes.”

“In the face of reckless and dangerous actions from the Trump Administration on clean air, Senators Nelson and Rubio must stand up for our health,” saidTurner Lott. “We urge our senators to defend clean air safeguards and clean car standards so that dirty air days can become a thing of the past.”

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Environment Florida Research & Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization. We are 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. For more information, visit www.environmentfloridacenter.org.