The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Rudhdi Karnik,, 202-495-3055

Environmental, Public Health, and Civil Rights Groups Unveil New Environmental Justice Ad Campaign


Today, the Sierra Club, EarthJustice, the NAACP, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Moms Clean Air Force, hosted a tele-press conference to release a major new ad campaign drawing attention to the disproportionate impacts of smog pollution on the health of communities of color. The groups will run ads in major African-American newspapers this month, including the Chicago Defender, The Washington Informer, Michigan Chronicle, and the Dallas Examiner. In addition, a five-figure digital ad buy will be launched in Washington, D.C.

Smog pollution is disproportionately prevalent in low-income communities and communities of color, which are more frequently in nonattainment areas (or areas that do not meet the EPA's standard for safe air conditions) than their white counterparts. Because of this, our most vulnerable communities are regularly exposed to smog pollution during bad air days, putting them at risk for life threatening health conditions. Seven in ten Black Americans live in areas with unsafe air, and Black children are three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital for asthma than other children.

"It needs to be known that the question of clean air isn't just a health issue, it's a justice issue. Low income communities and communities of color have been bearing an unjust burden for far too long," said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "Leaving the status quo in place is like letting an assault on the air our kids breathe keep going unchecked."

According to pulmonologists, inhaling smog pollution is like getting a sunburn on your lungs and often results in immediate breathing trouble. Long term exposure to smog pollution is linked to chronic asthma and other respiratory and lung diseases, reproductive and developmental harm, negative cardiac impacts, and even premature death. Children are at the greatest health risk from smog pollution because they are more likely to be active outdoors and their lungs are still developing.

"Corporate polluters are spending millions of dollars to fight strong smog protection," said Molly Rauch, Public Health Policy Director, Moms Clean Air Force. "They say we don't need strong smog standards. They say that dirty air is the cost of doing business. These lies hurt communities of color the most. Moms know that clean air means healthy kids. Clean air means less asthma. Clean air means fewer lost school days. Moms want a science-based smog standard that tells us the truth about whether the air is safe to breathe."

"The NAACP strongly supports the Obama Administration making the final decision on an ozone standard that ensures the right of every American to breath fresh air, regardless of their race or ethnicity" said Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its recommendation to the White House on new clean air protections against smog pollution, sending the proposed standard to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for further analysis. This new ad campaign will lift up the need for strong standards that meet the recommendations of the best science in order to protect the health of our families.

"Ozone is dangerous. It can inflame and damage the linings of your lungs, cause asthma attacks and premature death. We call on EPA to protect those most vulnerable, children and people of color who live, work and play in areas with high ozone," said Dr. Catherine Thomasson, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility.

"A wealth of scientific data shows that the current smog standard is inadequate to protect public health," said Stephanie Maddin, legislative counsel at Earthjustice. "We need the Obama administration to do the right thing by finalizing a standard that's most protective of our health. Obama should do it for the sake of the 7 million children who live and struggle with asthma."

The Sierra Club is the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. We amplify the power of our 3.8 million members and supporters to defend everyone's right to a healthy world.

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