As an asthma and allergy physician treating patients in the central San Joaquin Valley for more than 13 years, I thought I had seen it all. Then I saw that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) were holding a hearing in Fresno to get the public’s view of rolling back cleaner car standards and stripping California’s ability to protect our residents from harmful pollution.
In Fresno? Really? I’ll be there.
Every day in my practice, I see more evidence of the harm caused by bad air, and I agree with doctors and nurses around the globe that climate change is only making these challenges more severe. A key way that climate change impacts our health is by making it harder to reduce pollution in the air we breathe. Wildfires and heat waves result in increased levels of particle pollution from smoke and ozone pollution from hotter, stagnant air.
Our federal agencies now propose to roll back cleaner-car standards for carbon pollution and fuel efficiency. These standards were adopted in 2012 and represent one of the most important steps the United States has ever taken to fight climate change and its multiple threats to public health.
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Rolling back the standards would hinder our ability to protect vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change, including from worsened air pollution. Far too often, Californians see the cycles of heat waves, drought, wildfires, mudslides and flooding firsthand. In the Valley, weeks on end of extreme heat days, smog and blankets of wildfire smoke even impact our ability to safely be outdoors.
And yet, the EPA and NHTSA are coming to California, to Fresno, to hear from residents about plans to do less, to pollute more and make sure we can’t move forward with health protections our families need. This proposal actually revokes California and other states’ rights to set their own, more protective standards under the Clean Air Act.
As a doctor actively treating children and adults as well as a Fresno resident, and as a parent, – I say no to this unfounded attack on our future, and so do the majority of Americans. An American Lung Association poll earlier this year found that nearly 70 percent of voters support strong clean-car standards. With support across the political spectrum, clean air isn’t a partisan issue.
Californians, and especially Valley residents, already face the most difficult air pollution challenges in the country. The Lung Association ranks Fresno (and the rest of the Valley’s cities) among the most polluted in the United States. Our kids are growing up breathing unhealthy air for months on end. Unhealthy air days mean that the more than 300,000 kids and adults with asthma in the Valley face heightened risk of asthma attacks.
The proposals at hand will flatline the progress California has made to reduce carbon pollution and improve our air. The proposal will not allow Californians to innovate or create a cleaner air future for its own residents. The proposal will lessen the number of efficient cars and trucks throughout our area. Put simply, this proposal will increase the number of children I see each week in my exam room for breathing problems.
For these reasons, I’ll be at these hearings to speak loudly and clearly on behalf of myself, my family and my patients, and I encourage everyone who breathes this air in the Valley to do the same.
We need to stand up for ourselves, our children and our community, and tell the EPA and NHTSA to keep our current standards in place and fulfill their responsibility to protect the health of all Americans.
Dr. Praveen Buddiga is a founding practicing allergy and asthma physician with Family Allergy Asthma Clinic, with an office in Fresno-Clovis area, and a member of the American Lung Association’s Doctors for Climate Health.