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Our Children Need Health Protections Strengthened, Not Rolled Back

Today, being Black in America is dangerous. My wife and I don’t want our children to worry about their survival. We want them to run, play and to be kids. But at every turn, we are faced with challenges. By rolling back lifesaving public health safeguards, the Trump administration is putting the health of Black communities at risk, quite literally making it harder for us to breathe.

I’ve seen firsthand how air pollution has impacted my 10-year-old son, Ambrose Jr. – a passionate football player who suffers from asthma. We live in West Oakland, which is the transportation hub of the region that leads to and from San Francisco. It’s an area where pollutants from factories, Bay Area Rapid Transit, ships, trucks, trains, planes, and automobiles contaminate our air.

Data shows that African American children are 4.5 times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma, and 10 times more likely to die from asthma than white children.”

Communities of color have long lived in areas that are near pollution sources like highways and factories. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with monitoring these pollutants and putting safeguards in place that protect all of us. Unfortunately, with Trump-appointed Andrew Wheeler in charge of the EPA, we’re seeing efforts to protect communities like ours, rolled back.

Donald Trump and Wheeler have a laundry list of health protections they’re trying to dismantle – standards that make our cars run cleaner, save us money, and keep us healthier; protections against carbon pollution and methane from power plants – but the most recent and most troubling action that will affect Black communities is their effort to roll back the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards. These lifesaving protections aim to reduce the amount of mercury and other dangerous pollutants like arsenic, soot and lead we’re exposed to from the power plants.

“Even EPA’s own scientists recognize the health burden of pollution on African American communities is 54 percent higher than the health burden on the American population overall.”

Mercury pollution is particularly detrimental to vulnerable populations like pregnant women, infants, and children like my son, Ambrose Jr., since it’s linked to damage to the brain, to the nervous system, and to fetal development. That’s why the Mercury Standards were created, to address the risks that pollution from power plants poses. And with them in place, EPA projected we could prevent up to 130,000 asthma attacks, 5,700 emergency room visits, and 11,000 premature deaths every year, especially among African Americans and Latinos, who are more likely to live within 30 miles of coal power plants.

Data shows that African American children are 4.5 times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma, and 10 times more likely to die from asthma than white children. Even EPA’s own scientists recognize the health burden of pollution on African American communities is 54 percent higher than the health burden on the American population overall. So with all this established data, Trump and Wheeler should be strengthening protections for communities of color like mine, not rolling them back.

Despite his condition, we allow Ambrose Jr. to play the sport he loves while we monitor his Qvar™ inhaler intake and watch his play closely. We pray that he and other little children grow out of the condition, and in the meantime, we do the best we can to alleviate his discomfort. I would hope that those in a position to do more – like EPA Acting Administrator, Andrew Wheeler – would prioritize our children’s health so can they can enjoy childhood and not worry about the life-sustaining air they breathe or the water they drink.

Ambrose, Jr. with his sister.

As parents, it is our responsibility to stand up for our children. That means speaking out against Trump and Wheeler’s attacks on public health safeguards that could literally mean life or death for our children. Public officials love to say that children are the future, but our kids won’t have one if we don’t give them clean air to breathe.

Join the fight for clean air by emailing the EPA at enviromail@epamail.epa.gov.

Article by Rev. Dr. Ambrose Carroll, Green the Church Co-Founder

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