Guest Commentary: Let’s continue the drive to cleaner air


Deb Brown is the chief mission officer for the American Lung Association.

We care about clean air and protecting Delawareans’ health. As a longtime Delaware advocate and chief mission officer for the American Lung Association, I understand how important it is to ensure clean air to build and sustain thriving communities.

The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” 2023 highlighted that about 57% of Delawareans are living in communities impacted by bad ozone (“smog”), which is the most widespread type of air pollution. We have seen steady air quality improvements since the first American Lung Association report 24 years ago, but there are clearly still far too many communities suffering from air pollution. Cleaning up our state’s cars is a critical part of the solution.

Transportation remains Delaware’s top source of smog-forming and climate-damaging pollution. Combustion engines, highway expansion and longer commutes have created mixed results for our state. Sussex County received an A grade, Kent County earned a B, and New Castle County experienced the brunt of this poor air quality and earned a D. This mixed air quality report card highlights both the state’s air quality progress and ongoing challenges.

This month, the American Lung Association issued its “Driving to Clean Air: Health Benefits of Zero-Emission Cars and Electricity” report, which found that the United States and Delaware will benefit significantly from a widespread shift to zero-emission passenger vehicles and electricity. We found that this transition in Delaware could result in $4.3 billion in public health benefits for the state, with approximately 400 premature deaths avoided, 9,470 asthma attacks avoided and 46,800 lost workdays avoided cumulatively by 2050.

Delaware is home to more than 92,000 adults and children living with asthma, who need stronger protection against harmful ozone and particle (“soot”) pollution. Air pollution can cause negative health impacts, such as asthma attacks, heart attacks and lung and cardiovascular diseases. We all know someone more vulnerable to these effects. Kids, seniors and people living with lung and heart illnesses are at greater risk, as are those who are pregnant. Lower-income people and people of color often bear higher burdens of pollution and associated health impacts.

Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is considering adopting the Advanced Clean Cars II approach to zero-emission vehicles. This is one of the most important health protective actions the state can take to protect our hard-fought clean-air progress. Delaware must approve these lifesaving standards.

Achieving clean air in Delaware will take an all-hands approach. Accelerating the path to zero emissions in the transportation sector means designing and enforcing strong and equitable policies, building the infrastructure to support zero-emission transportation and putting federal funds to work here at home.

For families facing lung health emergencies today, now is the time for action.

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