Improving air quality in the state will lead to better health for Ohioans, according to the policy think tank, and can be done through policy changes.
In a recent examination of the relationship between air pollution and health, the Health Policy Institute focused on maternal and child health, lung and heart conditions, and cognitive conditions, all of which see improved outcomes with monitoring and controlling air pollutants. Could have
The HPIO said in a policy brief on the issue, “Exposure to air pollution may also increase the severity, lethality, and prevalence of COVID-19 because of its negative effects on cardiopulmonary diseases and immune responses.” “
Sources of air pollution range from power plants to vehicle exhaust and even natural sources such as dust.
Reforms have been made through the federal Clean Air Act in 1970, which sought to regulate emissions through EPA oversight and the implementation of plans in each state.
“The EPA may also take civil or criminal action against an entity that violates environmental law, such as by not installing required air pollution control equipment,” the HPIO said.
But Ohio “ranks poorly on outdoor air quality,” according to the institute’s research, and fares worse than most other states.
According to the 2021 Health Values Dashboard, more than 32% of Ohioans cited in the policy brief travel more than 30 minutes to work alone, while 4.1% walk, cycle or use public transportation.
But more than commuting options, some Ohioans are unknowingly at risk of the effects of air pollution because of where they live and the zoning policies in the communities they live in. Even the use of “redlining”, the discriminatory practice of denying mortgages and other financial services based on race or ethnicity, can cause minorities to end up in more polluted areas.
“Historically, zoning policies and redlining placed industrial plants and highways close to predominantly black neighborhoods and prevented black people from living in areas that did not have these sources of pollution,” the HPIO said.
According to research from the National Equity Atlas, Black Ohioans are 1.5 times more exposed to air pollution than the state’s white residents.
Part of the problem in Ohio was the passage of the scandal-ridden House Bill 6, a bailout of energy companies that led, among other things, to a bribery investigation and, earlier this month, the impeachment of former House Speaker Larry Householder. Criminal prosecution ensued.
Parts of the law related to the bailout were repealed in March 2021, but measures that severely cut energy-efficiency programs and standards for renewable energy remained in place.
“By lowering the renewable energy benchmark, Ohioans are more likely to continue using fossil fuel-based energy and be more at risk of air pollution exposure,” the HPIO policy brief states.
Ohio’s legislature also passed Senate Bill 52 in 2021, which would constrain the development of energy sources such as wind farms and solar facilities and allow local governments to turn down wind and solar proposals.
Local governments are doing their part to reduce air pollution, however, with the Central Ohio Transportation Authority planning a fleet transition to non-diesel by 2025 after receiving federal funding for the effort.
Ohio is set to receive $75 million over 10 years to finance emissions-reduction projects, following a settlement between Volkswagen and the US Environmental Protection Agency over an emissions scandal.
“The latest round of grants in November 2021 were projected to remove 33 tonnes of nitrogen oxides and 16 tonnes of other air pollutants annually,” the HPIO said.
Going forward, the policy institute said more legislation could set targets for “renewable energy purchases” and use air quality monitors to capture data on exposure. Increased funding for public transportation and an “environmental legislative review process” were also recommended by the HPIO.
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