Contrary to President Donald Trump’s claims, the air in America is not getting cleaner since he took office—in fact, according to an analysis from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pollution has gone up since he moved into the White House.
On Monday (July 8), he gave a speech at the White House on what he called “America’s environmental leadership,” praising his administration for “being good stewards of our public land” and promoting the “cleanest air” and water that is “crystal clean.”
At the event, EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said, “Today we have the cleanest air on record. Pollution is on the decline, and our focus is to accelerate its decline, particularly in the most at-risk communities.”
However, just this week, the EPA released data that showed this was not true. According to The Atlantic:
Six types of dangerous air pollutants qualify as “criteria” pollutants under the Clean Air Act, and all are toxic in some form to human health. At least three of them—ozone, nitrous oxide and particulate matter—are more prevalent now than they were in 2016, before Trump took office, according to EPA data released this week.
The number of “unhealthy-air days” across the country is also increasing. An unhealthy-air day is a day when ozone or particulate matter poses a threat to at least some of the population, such as children, the elderly or people with lung conditions. Particulate matter is one of the deadliest environmental toxins, and it still kills tens of thousands of Americans every year. Across 35 major American cities, there were nearly 14 percent more of these days in 2018 (799) than in 2016 (702), according to the EPA. The record for the fewest-ever number of unhealthy-air days was set in 2014, during the Obama administration, when there were only 598.
Aside from the overall dangers present when the air is toxic, the threats are exaggerated for communities of color in the United States. A joint study from November 2017 from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Clean Air Task Force and National Medical Association found that the air Black Americans breathe is nearly 40 percent more polluted than that of their White counterparts.
In March, NPR reported that air pollution is “disproportionately caused by White Americans’ consumption of goods and services, but disproportionately inhaled by Black and [Latinx] Americans.”
Air pollution can lead to a range of health issues, including asthma, lung cancer, heart disease and pneumonia for children younger than five. As Colorlines has previously reported, air pollution is considered the fourth greatest overall risk factor for human health worldwide—after high blood pressure, dietary risks and smoking.
As the 2020 election cycle gets underway, all Democrat presidential candidates reportedly believe that the person in the White House should lead global efforts around climate change and the environment. Conversely, Trump did not use the phrase “climate change” once during Monday’s hour-long speech on environmental leadership. A recent poll by The Washington Post/ABC News found that his lowest approval rating is based on his climate record, at 62 percent disapproval.
"The quality of our air has gotten worse under this president after decades of improvement," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, told Politico. "Donald Trump is the worst president in U.S. history for protecting the air and our climate."