Health groups urge Congress to limit air pollution coming into Maine

Posted Feb. 13, 2013, at 6:30 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Congress must act to address air pollution from out of state that’s sickening too many Maine children and seniors, the American Lung Association charged Wednesday at a State House news conference.

The association announced a “healthy air agenda” that it described as a “four-point blueprint for cleaning up the air,” according to a news release. The announcement followed President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, in which he called on Congress to act to reduce pollution contributing to global climate change.

The lung association spoke on behalf of the Maine Healthy Air Coalition, a group of 55 health organizations that called on Maine’s congressional delegation to limit air pollutants that drift into Maine from elsewhere in the country, according to the release. The coalition urged lawmakers to clean up coal-fired power plants, reduce the amount of sulfur in gasoline, set tighter pollution limits on new vehicles, and reject automatic spending cuts triggered by the budget deadlock that the coalition said would hamper efforts to monitor and improve air quality.

“Out-of-state smokestacks and tailpipes have put a bulls-eye on the backs of Maine children and seniors,” Dr. Marguerite Pennoyer, a Portland allergy and immunology physician and board member of the American Lung Association in Maine, said in the release. “Maine’s adult asthma rate is the highest in the nation. But by putting stronger science-based standards in place, many of the health and economic impacts of dangerous air pollution could be prevented.”

About 12 percent of Maine adults have asthma, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State Rep. Dennis Keschl, a Belgrade Republican and former director of Maine’s Bureau of Air Quality Control, announced a joint resolution Wednesday urging Congress to support and fund the federal Clean Air Act and enforce the legislation to reduce air pollution crossing into Maine.

“The reality is, we don’t have to choose between improving public health and helping our economy innovate and grow,” Keschl said in the release. “What the Lung Association has introduced is a simple, common sense path to healthier air. And it will put us another step closer to getting health costs under control – currently the No. 1 concern among Maine businesses.”

The two most widespread air pollutants, ozone and particle pollution, can lead to serious health problems, according to the American Lung Association. Particle pollution, which is emitted from car tailpipes and smokestacks, can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes and exacerbate respiratory and heart problems.

“I can tell you firsthand how much asthma affects your life, limits your activities, and leaves you feeling vulnerable on days when the air quality is bad,” Mary Trescot of Newcastle said in the release. “It’s no way to live as an adult, and it’s certainly no way for kids to grow up.”

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