Update 5/1/14: Today, the American Lung Association released its annual update of its “State of the Air Report.” Fairbanks again received a grade of “F” for short-term particle pollution. Last year Fairbanks ranked as the 9th-dirtiest community for PM-2.5. This year, Fairbanks has moved up to 7th. That is moving in the wrong direction, obviously. Share your story on the impact of dirty air on your health with the American Lung Association. After, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to let her know that you shared your story on the impact of dirty air on your health.
Take Action: Comment on the EPA’s proposed new wood stove standards. Comments are due May 5th. Strong new standards will benefit Fairbanks and other communities where wood stoves are commonly used. Please comment and ask for stronger emission standards. Know that you have the detailed comments of the American Lung Association and the Environmental Defense Fund behind you – but your local story on the impact of dirty air on your health is needed too. Please submit your comment here. After, please email email@example.com to let her know that you took action for clean air in your community.
A coalition of Fairbanks residents and community groups took legal action against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today, citing failures to protect clean air and public health in Alaska by not enforcing critical components of the Clean Air Act. When air pollution levels exceed health-based standards, as they do in Fairbanks, the Clean Air Act obligates state officials to submit a plan detailing how they will address the problem. The law requires states to prepare their plans in three years or less, but the State of Alaska has yet to submit a plan more than four years after deadly air pollution levels were identified in Fairbanks. The EPA has a responsibility to compel states to develop and submit overdue plans, a responsibility the agency has neglected for Fairbanks.
ACAT has been working on a project with Citizens for Clean Air, a coalition of local community members and citizens’ groups in Fairbanks committed to cleaning up the air there while keeping everyone warm. During the winter in Fairbanks, the air fills with soot and smoke (also known as fine particle matter or PM-2.5 air pollution) reaching unhealthy levels.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are looking into solutions to improve the air quality issues in Fairbanks, yet the process is taking too long and the proposed changes do not go far enough to protect public health.
ACAT, Citizens for Clean Air, and the Sierra Club sent a letter on February 4, 2014, calling on the EPA to compel the State of Alaska to produce a long-overdue and legally mandated plan to address air pollution in Fairbanks. The State was required under the Clean Air Act to develop a plan by June of 2011 to address the unhealthy air, a deadline the State has failed to meet. Rather than require Alaska to submit its late plan, EPA irresponsibly has proposed to extend the deadline. The letter notified EPA of the community groups’ intent to sue if EPA does not correct its course and comply with the law in 60 days. On April 24th, 2014, ACAT filed a lawsuit against the EPA.
We believe that everyone has a right to clean air.
Health Consequences of Soot and Smoke (PM-2.5)
- Particulate Matter & Health (EPA)
- EPA fact sheet on particulate matter air pollution and exposure (EPA)
- Air Now: How smoke from fires can affect your health (EPA)
- Particulate Matter Health Impacts (DEC)
- Association between Air Quality and Hospital Visits —Fairbanks, 2003–2008, (Alaska HSS Dept of Epidemiology)
Soot and Smoke in Fairbanks
- How bad is the air? (DEC)
- Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services Health Bulletin: Association between Air Quality and Hospital Visits —Fairbanks, 2003–2008
- Fairbanks North SB near real-time Air Quality data
- DEC real-time Air Quality Data
- Maps: What is the air quality near your home?
- Air quality sniffer maps winter 2013_2014
- Maps in slide show above are from a presentation made to the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly:
- Proposed regulations – to address Fine Particulate Matter (DEC)
- ACAT et al. Comments on ADEC wood smoke regulations (January 24, 2014) Exhibits
- Fairbanks Air Quality Handout
Key studies on Health impacts from particulate matter air pollution:
- “Toxicity beyond the Lung,” p. 122 Environmental Health Perspectives A29 (Jan. 2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.122-A29
- Krall JR, Anderson GB, Dominici F, Bell ML, Peng RD. 2013. Short-term exposure to particulate matter constituents and mortality in a national study of U.S. urban communities. Environ Health Perspect 121:1148–1153; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1206185
- Beard JD, Beck C, Graham R, Packham SC, Traphagan M, Giles RT, Morgan JG. 2012. Winter Temperature Inversions and Emergency Department Visits for Asthma in Salt Lake County, Utah, 2003–2008. Environ Health Perspect 120:1385–1390; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1104349
“Children are the most vulnerable to harm caused by the air pollution in Fairbanks,” said Pamela K. Miller, Executive Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “Studies show that our children are in grave danger from the severe air pollution—they are susceptible to more frequent asthma attacks, their lungs may be unable to develop fully, their energy for learning, exercise, and play is diminished, and their lives are shortened by degenerative heart failure. We have to ask the Borough, our State, and EPA to do better—because we simply can’t continue to allow our children to suffer this harm. It is time for urgent and responsible action.”
Said Bernice Gibson, a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother: “I am concerned that my daughter, grandchildren, and great grandbabies are trapped in a sea of air pollution in Fairbanks. I am particularly concerned for a grandson who developed a heart condition that makes the poor air quality very dangerous and limiting for him. The known effects of this pollution are bad enough. What about those not yet identified? Each new study suggests that PM-2.5 is even more harmful than we understood previously.”
Dr. Jeanne Olson, a North Pole Veterinarian said: “Heavy smoke chronically inundates a group of area neighborhoods so consistently that it has been nicknamed ‘the Rectangle of Death.’ We are not asking for special treatment. We are merely insisting that our government follows the law established to protect our citizens from poisons in the air we need to breathe.”
Said Lou Brown, a Co-Coordinator of Citizens for Clean Air: “Other communities in the nation have made progress to improve their air quality and make their cities healthy places to live. State of Alaska officials, by contrast, have done almost nothing to address the severe and dangerous air quality—with EPA complicit in their inaction. The State recently proposed new regulations that do too little to clean up the air pollution. And if past is prologue, it is unlikely that the State will finalize these or other necessary measures anytime soon. In the meantime, the failure to act is hurting the health and welfare of children and families.”
Said Michele Hebert-Mouton, local gardener and member of Citizens for Clean Air: “The inaction is frustrating because solutions are available that put public health first and also save money. Clean-burning heating devices are readily available in Fairbanks and are no more expensive than the dirty models. These efficient devices save their owners money over time with lower fuel use and help prevent the expense of hospitalization from illness. It is common sense to require a move toward cleaner stoves. It is also the neighborly thing to do.”
Sharon Baring, a school nurse and former public health nurse in Fairbanks, said: “Missed school days and work days from prolonged and repeated colds and bronchitis, asthma flares, irregular heartbeats and fatigue—the quality of what we breathe is contributing to these. We all pay, if not in illness directly, then for the increased medical expenses and lost productivity that come from them.”