Thursday, January 29, 2009

State Adding Emissions To Milwaukee's Asthmatic Air

So here we are again near the top of a list you'd rather be absent from all together:

Asthma rates.

We're Number Two nationally, a study says.

Bad enough that people are literally choking on the air we breathe here, but put that into a policy context: The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission cooked up a $6.5 billion rebuilding and expansion of freeway lanes, including miles and miles of new lanes right through the City of Milwaukee.

That's right: inducing more traffic into and through the city.

Over the objections of both the Milwaukee Common Council and the Milwaukee County Board.

Tailpipe emissions are a leading contributor to air pollution - - in fact, the state Department of Natural Resources issued a statewide air quality alert for today and tomorrow.

And we have had slew of them this winter and all last year.

From the current alert (and take note of the references to asthma):

"The Air Quality Index is forecast to reach the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups. People in those sensitive groups include those with heart or lung disease, asthma, older adults and children. When an air quality watch is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities during the watch period.

"People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms. Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure."

Worse, the state and the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce petitioned the US Environmental Protection Agency last year seeking looser air quality standards for much of SE Wisconsin.

The EPA, even under Pres. Bush, went the other way and the standards are being toughened.

Our public and privates sector leaders have to understand that dirty air harms everyone - - rich and poor (though central city residents live closer in larger numbers to the freeways; when you drive on I-43 from the Marquette Interchange to Glendale you are driving through what used to be intact, predominantly African-American neighborhoods) - - and that people will opt to leave the area or refuse to relocate here if they know the air will make them sick.

Where is Milwaukee's legislative delegation on this public health menance, this policy catastrophe. Where is the outrage?

People here and in the region, including those like talker Mark Belling who mock and block transit improvements need to understand that every mass transit vehicle can replace numerous auto trips hourly, and contribute to cleaner air.

And why can't Wisconsin leaders muscle up and pass a statewide public spaces' smoking ban to get another health issue out of the air in Wisconsin?

The national study ranking Milwaukee number two for asthma cites cigarette smoke as a factor.

There needs to be better transit here and a political commitment to clean up Milwaukee's polluted air, or the city and region will fall further behind more desirable locales.

And more people here will get sick


Anonymous said...

Here is a link to a map that shows real time air quality.
It gets especially bad when people burn their leaves in the fall, although that is clearly not what is to blame today.

Anonymous said...

Milwaukee's air pollution is not just second hand smoke that is just a small portion of it. Industrial emissions and other emissions is the majority of it. Chicago and Milwaukee need more legislation on their emission laws. Earth Day is coming soon, if you are from this area pay attention!