Studies show that exposure to long-term air pollution increases a person’s risk of dying from COVID-19. Exposure to toxic chemicals in the home and from air pollution can increase the risk of developing chronic diseases such as asthma, COPD diabetes, obesity, and a number of other autoimmune and respiratory diseases, all of which make people more vulnerable to COVID-19.
The rising evidence of pollution’s impact on worsening the pandemic’s effects make it even more disturbing that the EPA recently announced that it would stop monitoring and reporting compliance requirements for tens of thousands chemical facilities in the United States.
The new policy, outlined in EPA’s memo COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program, has a number of negative consequences, including denying communities living near these facilities information about toxic releases of chemicals and drinking water safety that will impact their health.
A disproportionate number of these communities are predominantly people of color and low income. These communities have long been overburdened and underserved. Communities living on the fenceline have higher rates of respiratory illnesses and air pollution can worsen or instigate chronic conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. This new EPA policy completely disregards the health and safety of those most immediately at risk of increased incidences of pollution.
It should come as no surprise that the EPA issued the policy a few days after the American Petroleum Institute (a trade association for the oil and gas industry) requested leniency for meeting regulations, using the pandemic as an excuse not to comply. EPA’s policy includes many exemptions to the requirements the chemical and oil industry have been opposing.
Now is not the time weaken environmental protections. We cannot let the pandemic be used as an excuse for not upholding environmental regulations in this country, the very ones that are supposed to protect our health from chronic diseases.
For more information, check out this article EPA Weakens Protections as Studies Link Pollution to Higher COVID-19 Death Rates.