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Everyone should have a right to clean air, but residents across Massachusetts are exposed to emissions from dirty energy generating stations, transportation pollution, and even sources within our homes like gas stoves and mold. This pollution burden is not distributed evenly. For example, an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that residents of color in Massachusetts are exposed to 26 - 36% more pollution from vehicle emissions than white residents.

In the current legislative session, Clean Water Action and our coalition allies are working for the passage of An Act to improve outdoor and indoor air quality for communities burdened by pollution - H.2131 (Barber, Connolly) / S.1382 (Jehlen). This bill requires new air monitoring stations for pollutants, including black carbon and ultrafine particulate matter, to establish a baseline of air pollution in neighborhoods overburdened by transportation pollution and includes ambitious goals to ratchet that pollution level down. Additionally, the bill requires the installation of air filters in existing eligible buildings, mandates advanced HVAC filtration systems for new eligible buildings, upgrades state codes to improve mold enforcement, and prohibits the installation of gas stoves in new eligible buildings, so children and other residents can breathe cleaner air in daycares, schools, public housing, and other spaces overburdened with transportation pollution.

Asthma in Massachusetts

It is estimated that 25 million people in the US have asthma. In Massachusetts, the highest asthma prevalence estimates are seen in and around densely populated areas, including, but not limited to, Boston, Springfield, Worcester, Lowell, New Bedford, and Fall River. In Boston, 24% of public school students have asthma. Asthmatic episodes cause children to miss valuable days of school instruction and force adults to miss shifts at work.

The burden of asthma is not shared equally. According to The American Lung Association, in 2018, Black people were 42% more likely than white people to have asthma. Black and brown communities are more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses such as asthma because polluting facilities and highways have been historically placed in their backyards, an example of environmental racism. This makes asthma not only a health justice problem but a social and environmental justice issue as well.