adora-obi-nweze_web.jpgAs the NAACP State Conference president for Florida, I am responsible for hearing and addressing all types of concerns and, in this state, far too many of the complaints I hear relate to deprivation of what should be a basic human right for all: the right to breathe clean air.

The racial disparities in air quality lead to disparities in health and quality of life. An African American making $50,000 per year is more likely to live in an area cited for bad air pollution than a white American making $15,000 per year. Arsenic, dioxins, lead, mercury and other pollutants are spewed daily from various industrial facilities such as incinerators, power plants and factories, putting people at risk across the country. 

For example, a Clean Air Taskforce report on power plant pollution found that emissions from all power plants in the U.S. are responsible for 30,000 premature deaths, 7,000 asthma-related emergency room visits and 18,000 cases of chronic bronchitis each year.

When opponents de-nounce safeguards against pollution such as the Clean Air Act and associated regulations with labels such as “job killing,” they disregard the high monetary cost of inaction and who is paying those costs. Consumers are already paying for the less publicized costs of toxic air quality: mounting health expenses, lost days of school to care for sick kids, poor performance for lead-exposed kids who have learning challenges, lost days of work due to illness and trips to take children to the doctor, etc.

Currently, regulations under the Clean Air Act, such as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule, which aim to reduce pollution in our air, are under attack by polluters and certain legislative initiatives in Congress aimed at blocking the functionality of the law. But these rules are essential for sensible reductions in air pollution. Supporting them would save up to 1,500 lives and prevent heart attacks, hospitalizations, and ER visits in Florida every year.

Don, of Lakeland, who attended a recent NAACP town hall meeting, stated, “It is very important that serious support be given to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules as they pertain to mercury and air toxic safeguards.  Because of a lack of knowledge on the part of the greater community, we were not aware of all of the hazards associated with this type of plant.  I have learned that death may be the ultimate measure one must pay for our ignorance.”

Opposing the implementation of the Clean Air Act and its associated regulations would limit the EPA’s ability to enforce clean air standards that protect us from significant amounts of harmful air pollution. Our focus must be on retaining and strengthening safeguards which protect the health and well-being of the people living in communities affected by air pollution, who are over 50 percent of the U.S. public and, disproportionately, communities of color and low income communities.

 Enough is enough. We must maintain existing safeguards, as well as implement and strengthen standards that protect our communities. The NAACP Florida State Conference of Branches strongly urges our senators and representatives to support clean air safeguards and oppose proposed measures in Congress that put their constituents at risk.

Let Florida lead the way to cleaner air.

Photo: Adora-Obi-Nweze