Mayor John A. Ostenburg Signals Support for Stronger Clean Air Protections from President Obama

Mayor John Ostenburg
Park Forest Mayor John Ostenburg. (PHOTO SUPPLIED)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Mayor John A. Ostenburg this week joined more than 65 mayors from around the country in signing a letter signaling support for President Barack Obama setting the strongest possible clean air protections against smog pollution, also known as ground-level ozone.

The letter was signed by a diverse coalition of local leaders from 24 states, many of which have of a history of high smog pollution levels, including Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts and California. The letter supports efforts by President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stay true to the science and issue protections consistent with the recommendations from leading public health organizations like the American Lung Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Heart Association.

“Smog contributes to a number of respiratory illnesses, especially those that affect the very young and the very old,” Mayor Ostenburg said. “The Park Forest Sustainability Plan makes a commitment for our community to work toward greater clean air standards, and by signing on to this letter I am helping to fulfill that commitment.”

According to the American Lung Association, inhaling smog pollution is like getting a sunburn on your lungs and often results in immediate breathing trouble. Long term exposure to smog pollution is linked to chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, reproductive and developmental harm, and even premature death. Children, seniors, and people with asthma are especially vulnerable to smog’s health impacts.

Smog pollution also disproportionately affects low income communities and communities of color, who are more likely to live close to sources of pollution and roadways, have lower access to medical information and health insurance, and die from asthma related complications.

The existing, outdated standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) put in place by the George W. Bush Administration has been widely panned by the medical community as grossly insufficient to protect public health. In a letter released in March 2015, 13 medical associations wrote EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asking her to strengthen these protections to safeguard vulnerable populations from its negative health impacts. The Obama Administration is under court order to issue an update to these air quality standards by October 1, 2015.

John A. Ostenburg is in his fifth four-year term as mayor of Park Forest, Illinois, and formerly served in the Illinois House of Representatives. He retired in July 2010 as the chief of staff for the Chicago Teachers Union after holding various CTU posts over a 15-year period. Recently he was appointed to serve on the newly created Cook County Land Bank Authority. A former newspaper reporter and editor, he also has been a teacher and/or administrator at elementary, secondary, community college, and university levels. E-mail him at [email protected].