The number of unhealthy air days in nearly three dozen cities soared in the first two years of the Trump administration, according to an annual air pollution report released Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA report said dangerous air days in 35 of the largest U.S. cities rose from a combined 706 in 2016 to 799 in 2018 – the biggest annual increase since 2012. Levels of some pollutants, including carbon monoxide, have declined since 1970, but the ones that pose the most danger to sensitive groups – ozone, commonly known as smog, and two sizes of tiny particles that penetrate the lungs – have risen in the past two years.
The EPA data did not track releases of greenhouse gas emissions of carbon monoxide and methane, the main causes of climate change, but the Department of Energy estimates that CO2 releases from the burning of fossil fuels rose nearly 3 percent in 2018.
“EPA chief Andrew Wheeler can attempt to spin this report all he wants, but any effort to call it a ‘win’ for public health is putting lipstick on a pig,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Millions of people, including children and the elderly, will literally choke on air pollution. The record shows the Trump administration has zero interest in combating air pollution from smokestacks and tailpipes, and continually displays its absolute allegiance to the fossil fuel lobby.”
The EPA report comes out as Trump and Wheeler have rolled back or repealed several key Obama-era clean air regulations. Among the actions taken by President Trump and Wheeler that endanger the environment and human health:
- Gutting an Obama-era rule that has dramatically cut emissions of mercury, a highly toxic chemical that harms the nervous systems of children and fetuses. The Obama rule has cut by 70 percent emissions of mercury and other heavy metals, such as lead and arsenic, from coal-fired power plants.
- Repealing and replacing Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to reduce air pollution from coal-fired power plants to save lives and lower the number of children suffering from asthma. The Trump replacement plan, according to estimates by researchers at Harvard University, would mean 36,000 premature deaths and 360,000 more cases of childhood respiratory ailments over a decade.
- Pulling out of the Paris climate pact, leaving the U.S. the only nation on earth not part of the agreement.