The NAACP Supports the Clean Vehicle Emission Standards

Highways-- we need them to travel to and from long distances, to see family, friends, and to get to work, church, the grocery store, etc.  Over 35 million people in the United States are living within 300 feet of a major road. Millions of people are suffering across the country from the exposure to this “near roadway air pollution” and low income African Americans are suffering even more because we are the main population who live by these roadways.  We need to become more aware of the danger we have become accustomed to in living by busy highways. 

Approximately 30–45% of urban populations in the United States are exposed to elevated pollution levels near major roadways. An estimated 70% of African Americans live in urban areas. People in urban areas are exposed to a mixture of traffic-related primary and secondary pollutants, such as, nitrogen oxidex, volatile organic compounds, black carbon, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, benzene, and various other hazardous air pollutants. Concentrations of air pollutants and resulting negative respiratory health effects are greater near the road than away from the road.

Scientists have warned that living near a busy road could double the risk of autism in children. Researchers found exposure to air pollution in the womb or during the first year of life was linked to a dramatic increase in a child’s chances of being diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  Children from homes with the highest traffic pollution levels were three times more at risk than those from the least exposed homes.  U.S. researchers found that infants living in highly polluted cities during their first two months of life had a higher mortality rate than infants living in cities with clean air. African American children are three times as likely to enter the hospital due to asthma attacks and twice as likely to die from asthma attacks. High particulate matter levels significantly increased the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and respiratory mortality.

The federal government plays a major role in preventing the inconsistent environmental health risks posed by vehicle emissions on major highways. The Federal Clean Air Act plays a major role in reducing this environmental health risk by setting minimum air quality standards to protect the environment and the health of the people who live in it. The National Environmental Policy Act “NEPA” may also play an important role by preventing the construction of major highways through low-income areas by including the environmental health and social consequences in the cost-benefit study of proposed highways.

In light of the overwhelming facts about the dangers of air pollution and living by busy highways, we as African Americans must champion the clean vehicle emission standard so that we can ensure that regulations are in place to protect our communities from the effects of air pollution on our health and wellbeing. Submit your comment to EPA today and add your voice to the ongoing conversation about guaranteeing clean air in our communities.