- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
Nearly 133 million Americans are breathing unhealthful air, while air quality in dozens of metropolitan areas has actually grown worse over the last decade, according to a new report from the Surface Transportation Policy Project. The study, links U.S. air pollution to a host of public health issues including asthma, heart disease and some cancers, naming transportation as a key contributor.
According to the report, "Clearing the Air: Public Health Threats from Cars and Heavy-duty Vehicles - Why We Need to Protect Federal Clean Air Laws," lawmakers are considering legislation that could gut clean air protections and slash funding for transportation alternatives that reduce traffic and air pollution. "Specifically, proposals before Congress would reduce the frequency with which transportation plans must be reviewed for their air quality impacts and excuse metropolitan areas from having to consider the long-term air quality impacts of transportation projects."
The distance driven has increased by 162 percent since 1969, with the number of daily trips up by 57 percent since that time. Transportation is responsible for more than half of U.S. CO, 34 percent of NOX and about 29 percent of hydrocarbon emissions. The bottom line: transportation-related air pollution "has overwhelmed air quality gains that have been made from cleaner engine technologies," according to the report.
The report ranks metropolitan areas nationwide by the highest number of days of unhealthful air pollution levels over the last three years using new data from the EPA.
Among the report's recommendations: Protect existing clean air laws and funding; bolster the role of regional planning agencies working to reduce transportation-related air pollution; and encourage a more balanced approach to reducing air pollution that emphasizes cleaner vehicles and transportation options such mass transit, bicycling and walking.