I’m a respiratory therapist at PenBay Medical Center, and I see people every day who struggle to breathe. Their lives are affected by things such as air pollution and allergen levels most people probably don’t give much thought to. As a grandparent of five, I’ve long been concerned about how air quality can affect our lungs.

Although Maine’s air pollution has gotten better over the years thanks to the Clean Air Act, we’re still living with pollution levels that are too high and ozone limits that are too weak. Independent scientists and physicians who analyzed thousands of studies agree: Ozone harms health at levels well below what is currently considered “safe.”

That means that every summer when parts of Maine are issued an air quality alert for ozone pollution, we actually experience many more unhealthy air days that we aren’t being notified about. Accurate air quality information is critical to maintaining the health of patients with compromised lungs.

We all would benefit from having stronger standards and knowing exactly when the ozone levels outside threaten our lungs.

According to the American Lung Association’s 2015 State of the Air Report, too many of our friends and neighbors live where ozone pollution levels are unhealthy to breathe. Several counties in southern and coastal Maine received grades of “F” for ozone pollution on this year’s report.

The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing the current ozone standards and will finalize new standards later this year. The most protective standard under consideration could prevent up to 7,900 premature deaths and 1.8 million asthma attacks in children. Imagine the difference that could make.

I urge others to join me in telling President Barack Obama and the EPA to put the health of our children first and strengthen the standards for ozone pollution.

Diane Haskell


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