Statement Of Anthony DeLucia
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
May 7, 2003
Chairman of Board American Lung Association
My name is Anthony DeLucia and I am a volunteer for the American Lung Association. This year I am the Chair of the National Board of Directors of the American Lung Association and as well serve in a dual capacity as the organizations representative to EPA's Clean Air Act Advisory Committee. Thank you for allowing me to testify on environmental health issues affecting senior citizens, particularly lung health related aspects. The American Lung Association is committed to reducing the risk to all Americans from air pollution, but senior citizens are among those at higher risk, as are children and those of any age with a lung disease. Ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and more are among the air pollutants that harm senior citizens. Many seniors live in areas where the air they breathe puts them at risk. Just to cite one example, last week we noted in our State of the Air 2003 report card that over 16 million seniors live in counties that received an F grade for having unhealthy air. Shockingly, this represents 68% of the seniors living in areas where monitors are located. The Baltimore-Washington area has ranked 11th worst in the "ALA's 25 Most Polluted Cities List" the last 2 years, an improvement from 7th that our organization attributes somewhat to a temporary return to cooler, wetter summers in parts of the Eastern US.
As we age, our ability to breathe declines over time, making us ever more susceptible to the ravages of air pollution. Ozone air pollution can further reduce lung function, making it even harder to breathe. Ozone air pollution also increases susceptibility to influenza, pneumonia, and other infections, which are especially dangerous to the elderly. Fine particle air pollution has been linked repeatedly to increased risk of premature death, targeting especially those, like seniors, whose lungs and hearts are more vulnerable. Seniors suffer from asthma, including dying from that disease, and also tend to have higher incidences of chronic bronchitis and emphysema, forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which further weakens the lungs. In the eastern United States alone, summer ozone pollution causes an estimated 159,000 emergency room visits per year for COPD and other respiratory emergencies. New evidence, just published this month, suggests that the toll of air pollution on seniors may have been underestimated, especially on pollution-related mortality and lung disease.
Not only is the American Lung Association deeply concerned about the ravaging effects on health from air pollution, but we are also dismayed by the inadequate and illegal response from EPA to combat these pollutants. Instead of recognizing the requirement for dirty power plants and industrial facilities to clean up when they increase pollution, EPA is granting them a free ride on the lungs of our seniors by rolling back new source review protections in the Clean Air Act. Furthermore, the proposals from the administration for its inappropriately dubbed "Clear Skies Initiative" will fail to reduce pollution as much or as quickly as the current law. Instead of pushing for further clean up of some of the nation's dirtiest plants, the administration's proposal would allow these plants and their parent corporations to continue to risk the lives of seniors, as well as the rest of America, for years to come. Young and old Americans alike have much to lose from the harm of air pollution. The threat to our health and to the health of those we love is serious and real. What we should have, and do not have now, is the continued commitment of the federal government to take the strongest steps necessary to clean up that threat. What I can promise is the perseverance of the American Lung Association in the fight to reduce air pollution and to protect the lungs of the most vulnerable among us.