Amidst a ‘forest’ of clean air messages, moms and families call for legislative action on ozone pollution

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, February 21, 2023

DENVER – Surrounded by a ‘forest’ of clean air messages, Mountain Mamas, concerned parents and kids gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday – 100 days before the start of the Front Range’s next ozone season – to share their stories and highlight the need for a set of actions this year to cut harmful ozone pollution. Moms are demanding clean air for their kids’ health now and for a brighter future for their children. 

An installation art piece created by moms and children to resemble an aspen grove was on display in the Capitol lobby and represented different paths legislators can take to clean Colorado’s air.

“We have an air pollution problem in Colorado. As our state continues to grow, the problem will only get worse unless we make serious changes to business as usual,” said Sara Kuntzler of Colorado Mountain Mamas. “Air pollution harms everyone but our kids are the most susceptible to the damage it does, including shortness of breath, asthma attacks, preterm birth and low birth weight, impaired cognitive functioning and premature death.”

“Every day at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. I have an alarm that tells me to remind my 16-year-old kid to take his asthma medication,” said Cayenna Johnson, a mom from Aurora. “In the last two years, he’s been hospitalized three times. All winter long he navigates viruses and pollution and often stays inside because of the impact of the air on his lungs. Clean air is not just a slogan for me — it literally means the difference on whether my kid will be able to participate in sports, go to school, and live without constant medication.”

At the event, CoPIRG also released an ozone agenda lifting up policy actions the legislature should take this year to cut harmful air pollution across several sectors such as transportation, lawn and garden, oil and gas, buildings and appliances, industrial facilities and more.

“No single solution will bring ozone pollution in our region down below unsafe levels, so it is important that the legislature and Governor work together, as they have done previously, to pass a package of policies that address ozone pollution across the board,” said CoPIRG Foundation Clean Air Advocate Kirsten Schatz. “When those hot, sunny days come, every pound of ozone-forming pollution that we can prevent will matter for our health.” 

Breathing ground-level ozone can cause harmful health effects including lung damage, worsening of existing respiratory conditions such as asthma and even cardiovascular disease. Even short-term exposure to elevated ozone levels can lead to an increased risk of death.

From the northwest corner of the state to the Front Range, Colorado suffers from ozone pollution that often exceeds air quality standards. In recent years, the northern Front Range region – roughly from Castle Rock up to Fort Collins and Greeley – has suffered from some of the highest ozone pollution in the country. These high ozone levels mean the region is also failing to meet the national health-based air quality standards for ozone, and in 2022, the EPA reclassified the region from “serious” to “severe” nonattainment of these standards.

“Because I-25 runs through my district, air quality is a primary concern for my constituents and for me,” explained State Representative Jenny Willford. “We have many opportunities this legislative session to address our air quality problem and I am committed to doing everything I can to see that Colorado takes bold action to protect our residents. I’m a mom and like many parents of young children, I understand what is at stake when we make decisions here in our state’s Capitol. The impacts of those decisions reach beyond the present and into the future that our children will inherit. I keep that in mind every day.”

“Air pollution is dangerous to everyone’s health but it doesn’t impact all communities equally. Communities most often impacted are low income and communities of color,” said State Representative Jennifer Bacon, who represents far Northeast Denver. “These neighborhoods are burdened with additional medical bills due to the harmful health impacts. I am here to fight for our vulnerable communities and therefore will do everything I can to clean up our air pollution problem.” 

About Mountain Mamas: Mountain Mamas envision a future with clean air and water for our families, climate justice for all communities, and protected public lands that allow our children to enjoy our outdoor quality of life for generations to come. 

CoPIRG is the Colorado Public Interest Research Group. CoPIRG is an advocate for the public interest. We speak out for a healthier, safer world in which we’re freer to pursue our own individual well-being and the common good.