WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, ahead of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s testimony before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the EPW Committee, released a staff report summarizing the actions taken by the EPA to roll back air pollution protections during the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential effects of those rollbacks on public health in light of emerging research that reports a link between exposure to air pollution and adverse outcomes from COVID-19.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a public health emergency in March 2020, EPA has continued with its reckless deregulatory agenda without pause – in some cases, the agency has accelerated its agenda, rushing to finalize rules without adequate public input.
“While the rest of the country works around the clock to combat and overcome this deadly respiratory pandemic, the Trump EPA has been spearheading a pandemic of pollution,” Senator Carper said.
“We are in a fight for our lives right now. What we need is an EPA that harnesses all of its resources to help us better understand any links between air pollution and COVID-19 risks and takes steps to address them. Instead, what we have is an agency taking actions that will increase air pollution and put public health at even greater risk,” Senator Carper continued. “In recent weeks, EPA has rolled back critical protections for public health under the guise of industry relief and economic growth. These actions are poised to make this fight for our lives all the more difficult and even more deadly.
“Under normal circumstances, these rollbacks would be cause for grave concern. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they are profoundly irresponsible and cause for alarm,” he continued. “EPA Administrator Wheeler must answer to the American people.”
Evidence has emerged indicating that adverse outcomes from COVID-19 are disproportionately experienced by residents of low income and minority communities. These same communities typically experience higher exposures to air and water pollution than others and bear a higher burden of disease due to many other contributing factors. As new research shows a nexus between climate change, increases in air pollution, and greater adverse health outcomes among those most affected, this report describes:
The Connection between Coronavirus Outcomes and Air Pollution
This report summarizes recent studies that have reported emerging links between exposure to air pollution and adverse COVID-19 outcomes. For example, air pollution has been shown to contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, pre-existing conditions that correlate with worse COVID-19 outcomes. What’s more, these contributing factors are disproportionally prevalent in low income and minority communities, which have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Connection between Climate Change, Air Pollution and Pandemics
The report also examines how climate change contributes to poor air quality, and could encourage more vector-borne disease outbreaks with pandemic potential in the future. Higher concentrations of both ground-level ozone and particulate matter can have an overall negative effect on air quality – and recent studies have reported that poor air quality is also believed to be a contributing factor in patient mortality of COVID-19.
EPA Rules that Will Increase Air Pollution Proposed or Finalized Since March 1, 2020:
In addition to summarizing all of the rollbacks related to air pollution that EPA has either proposed or finalized since March 1, this report also includes estimates of premature deaths that could occur as a result of those rollbacks.
Finally, the report provides recommendations that EPA should act on immediately to improve human health and the environment during this time.
The report, “A Pandemic of Pollution: How EPA Air Pollution Actions Taken Since March 1, 2020 Will Harm Public Health and Potentially Add To COVID-19 Risks,” can be found here.