The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) predictably set off a furor a little while ago when it announced new ozone pollution standards that fell far short of those unanimously recommended by its own scientific panel of advisers. It called for a modest improvement over the current standard of 0.08 ppm/8-hours, revising it downwards to a value in the range of 0.075 ppm/8-hours to 0.070 ppm/8-hours. Health advocacy groups and members of the scientific community had been pushing for a revised standard of 0.060 ppm/8-hours.
"In issuing the standard today, EPA is ignoring the advice of their own staff, the advice of EPA advisory committees, the opinion of the medical and scientific community," says Dr. Ingbar, the president of the American Thoracic Society. "More importantly, EPA is ignoring the all the kids who will be spending part of their summer in the hospital emergency room from asthma attacks caused by ozone pollution." In an effort to raise public awareness and put pressure on the federal government, Earthjustice, a non-profit public interest law firm, has just launched a new virtual campaign called "Adopt the Sky."The website encourages people to "adopt the sky" by signing a petition that assigns them to a virtual square-mile of sky over one of many dirty areas in the country. The interface screen resembles a foggy sky with little floating air molecules representing the names, home and adopted state locations and messages of users who've signed onto the petition.
There is a wealth of information on the site relating to statistics on cities with the worst air quality and the numbers of children with asthma by state. You can also dig into the links and other random facts if you're hungry for more. Georgia McIntosh, Director of Marketing for Earthjustice, hopes the website will "help visitors really visualize the impact that dirty air has on our health and our environment, and to give them a sense that there is something we can all do together to let EPA know that weak protections against dirty air are not acceptable."
The gathered signatures will be delivered to the EPA at public hearings it plans on holding this summer to discuss whether ozone pollution standards should be improved. They will be presented alongside the signatures obtained by several other environmental and public health groups like the American Lung Association.