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    Grand Rapids, Salt Lake City release letter from 70 mayors supporting President Obama setting science-based air quality standards

    Today, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell and Ralph Becker of Salt Lake City, Utah released a letter signed by 70 U.S. mayors from around the country signaling support for President Obama setting the strongest possible clean air protections against smog pollution, also known as ground-level ozone. 

    The letter was signed by a diverse coalition of local leaders from 24 states, many of which have of a history of high smog pollution levels; including California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Michigan. The letter supports efforts by President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stay true to the science and issue protections consistent with the recommendations from leading public health organizations like the American Lung Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Heart Association.

    “Millions of children suffer from asthma in this country, many of them right here in Grand Rapids,” said Mayor Heartwell. “It’s simple – strong smog pollution protections will save lives and prevent asthma attacks so we stand united in calling for action.”

    According to the American Lung Association, 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 respiratory diseases like asthma, reproductive and developmental harm, and even premature death. Children, seniors, and people with asthma are especially vulnerable to smog’s health impacts. 

    “Mayors are on the frontlines of addressing public health challenges. We know, because we see firsthand that smog is a dangerous and sometimes even deadly air pollutant,” said Mayor Becker. “Stronger smog protections will help Salt Lake City families and all Americans breathe easier and spend more time outdoors without having to worry about the quality of the air they breathe.” 

    Smog pollution also disproportionately affects low income communities and communities of color, who are more likely to live close to sources of pollution and roadways, have lower access to medical information and health insurance, and die from asthma related complications. 

    The existing, outdated standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) was put in place by the George W. Bush Administration and has been widely panned by the medical community as grossly insufficient to protect public health. In a letter released in March 2015, 13 medical associations wrote EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asking her to strengthen these protections to safeguard vulnerable populations from its negative health impacts. The Obama Administration is under court order to issue an update to these air quality standards by October 1, 2015.