Statement Of Thomas J. Krumreich
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
April 3, 2003
Thomas J. Krumreich
Preparing for an aging population in the U.S. entails acknowledging the fact of the rapid growth of this sector of our society with all the attendant responsibilities. According to remarks addressed to Governor Whitman at the workshop: "Differential Susceptibility of Older Persons to Environmental Hazards" on December 5, 2002: "By mid-century, our population over 65 will have more than doubled from today. There is no doubt that the rapid growth of the senior population, coupled with the fact that older Americans are more vulnerable to environmental hazards, make this a population that deserves special attention.". "The older we are, the more susceptible we become to threats from the environment, which may cause or worsen chronic or life threatening conditions."."Poor indoor air quality as well as ozone and particulate matter in outdoor air, exacerbate respiratory conditions, trigger asthma attacks, and limit activity levels. Older immune systems are also less able to fight off waterborne microbes such as cryptosporidium and e-coli."
Besides the greater susceptibility of older persons to environmental threats acknowledged in these remarks there was also acknowledgment given in the NSA study of 1987, "Aging in Today's Environment". That report referred to the dangers of exposure to environmental hazards during critical stages of development throughout individual human lifetimes resulting in increased health problems in later life.
Given this background of acknowledged understanding of the dangers of exposure to environmental hazards throughout one's lifetime it is difficult to understand any attempt to lower the standards for environmental pollution. Even if one accepts the policy attributed to the current administration of devaluing the lives of persons 70 and over to 63% of that of a younger person these same environmental hazards have a cumulative effect on the quality of health of persons throughout their lifetimes. Also, from a purely economic standpoint the costs of treating health problems associated with exposure to environmental hazards throughout the lifetimes of individuals far outweigh the short term costs associated with creating a cleaner and healthier environment now.
From a humanitarian perspective how can we justify continuing to allow people to be exposed to hazards we know to have such a negative effect on their physical health and quality of life? The effort needs to be focused on strengthening environmental standards, not weakening them and certainly not making any attempt to justify lower standards of environmental cleanliness by devaluing human life. Self-regulation does not work. Only when strongly worded and effectively enforced governmental policies are utilized has real progress been made in any area of industry regulation.
Here in Florida one of the greatest sources of environmental pollution exists in our coal fired power plants, especially those grandfathered in under the 30-year-old exemption in the Federal Clean Air Act. As a specific example of what needs to be done, the cleanup of emissions at the coal fired power plant at Crystal River to current standards has to rank high among priorities. Studies done by the Harvard School of Medicine have directly linked deaths among vulnerable populations to the quantity and types of pollutants being emitted from such plants.
I came here today to express my concern over the apparently lax attitude of this administration toward environmental regulation. As a person in mid life and about to enter into my, hopefully, golden years I am concerned not only for myself, but for all of us in this growing segment of society. The future quality of our lives and the degree of economic burden placed on the younger generation depends on decisions made now on environmental and health care policies. We cannot afford either economically or ethically to shirk our responsibilities in these vital areas.
My plea to Governor Whitman and the Bush administration is to not give in to industry pressures when formulating environmental policy. The viewpoint of our government has to be all encompassing, not just limited to the special interests of one sector of our society.
Thank you for your time and consideration today.