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Trouble in the Air: From Seattle to Yakima to Spokane, WA residents’ health at risk from numerous dirty air days in 2016

For Immediate Release

Seattle, WA – With the Trump administration proposing to weaken federal air quality and global warming emissions standards, air pollution remains a threat to public health. According to a new report by Environment Washington Research & Policy Center 3.8 million people in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area experienced 26 days of degraded air quality in 2016, 250,000 people in Yakima experienced 84 days of degraded air quality, and 554,000 people in Spokane-Spokane Valley experienced 51 days of degraded air quality, increasing the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.

“All Washingtonians should be able to breathe clean air. Even one day with polluted air is too many,” said Bruce Speight, Director of Environment Washington 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 Washington Research & Policy Center, Frontier Group and WashPIRG 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.

“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."

Also, wildfires, already increasing in intensity and frequency due to drought and higher temperatures, create particulates and other air pollution that can travel for hundreds of miles.

These troubling findings come at a time when the Trump administration has announced new guidelines to weaken the federal clean car standards, a critical program to cut global warming emissions and increase fuel efficiency. In late June, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the agency will review the federal ozone standard -- a standard he sued to stop when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general.

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 Speight. “We must accelerate our progress, not hit the brakes on effective programs like the federal clean car standards.”

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Environment Washington 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. www.environmentwashingtoncenter.org.