U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) recently sent a letter to request more funding for federal air quality programs following revelations that several Portland neighborhoods have high levels of heavy metals in their air.
“Hazardous air pollutants, such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium, can cause cancer, neurological disorders and other serious health impairments,” said the letter, which went to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that governs the Environemtnal Protection Agency budget. “While these toxic air pollutants are regulated under the Clean Air Act, existing rules have been inadequate at protecting American citizens. Furthermore, these dangerous shortfalls have been caught only by experimental air quality analysis conducted by non-EPA agencies, indicating that our mainstay national air quality monitoring system is also in need of an upgrade.”
The senators also wrote a second letter to the subcommittee to specifically request that it increase the budget for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), using both the recent data from Portland and the Flint, Michigan, drinking water crisis to demonstrate the need for expert investigation and response.
“A number of incidents early in 2016, have reminded us that dangerous environmental health concerns exist across America,” said the second letter. “More than ever, we need to robustly fund this Agency. Increased funding for ATSDR will provide necessary support for the scientific and programmatic capabilities that safeguard human health, in all our communities across America.”