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Local News

Proposed Vehicle Emissions Standards Designed to Cut Pollution, Improve Health in PA

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Danielle Smith, Producer

Tuesday, July 11, 2023   

In Pennsylvania and across the country, cleaner cars and lower emissions are the goals of the Environmental Protection Agency proposal, recommending ambitious new standards to help reduce vehicle emissions starting with model year 2027. 
EPA data show the transportation sector accounts for 27% of greenhouse-gas emissions, the largest and fastest growing source in the United States. 

Dr. Stephanie Maximous, a pulmonary and critical-care physician at the University of Pittsburgh, said the transportation sector contributes to air pollution which is harmful to people’s lung health, and added pollutants can cause a variety of health issues, including respiratory problems, heart disease and cancer.

“We know that all types of air pollution affect everyone’s health, not only lung disease, but also contributes to accelerated cardiovascular disease, greater risk for things like heart attacks and strokes. All sorts of cancer, not only lung cancer,” she explained. 

Maximous suggested swift action from the government to help reduce risks and developing ways to mitigate air pollution are things that needs to be implemented as soon as possible. Opponents of long-term clean-car standards argued they are costly and could raise vehicle prices, an assertion disputed by conservation groups.

Maximous emphasized the public can also get involved in helping reduce pollution by transitioning to renewable sources of energy and voicing their concerns to lawmakers. 

“As an individual, we can do things like vote for politicians who are supporting environmental standards like this, for example, that put more aggressive sort of bars on how much vehicles can pollute, for example, those types of things force carmakers to change their standards,” she said. 

Cara Cook, director of programs with the Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment, added it is important that the EPA sets the strongest long-term standards as possible because the exposure to high levels of air pollution can lead to an array of health problems, especially for children.

“Their developmental patterns are physiologically different than adults,” Cook said. “They breathe at a faster rate than adults, and they have developing lungs. And so these are the two biggest components that put them at a higher risk of when they’re exposed to air pollutants. They are more vulnerable to the exposure as well as a result of health impacts.”

Cook anticipates the EPA will issue a final ruling by the end of the year, and added her organization is advocating for tougher emissions rules and took to America’s highways for a relay across the country including a stop in Pennsylvania. They call it the  Route Zero Relay, saying it is important to make electric vehicles more affordable to help clean up the air. 

References: Multi-Pollutant Emissions Standards EPA 2023

This story first appeared in Public News Service, a member-supported news site to engage, educate and advocate for the public interest.