Toxic Air Surrounds the Great Lakes

by Laura Michelle Burns

The Great Lakes are not called the Great Lakes without good cause. Those who live in this region are fortunate enough to enjoy water sports, great cities with family activities, a rich history, and a deep cultural connection to one another. The larger cities around the Lakes are amply populated and there are lots of opportunities to get out and enjoy their beauty. Smaller towns have that deep school pride that calls everyone out on a Friday night to cheer at the football games. I love raising my children here in Ohio for many of these reasons.

The Great Lakes Study

As much as I love living here, I am not naïve. I know our air quality is very poor, and I find this fact to be so discouraging. In a recent study by the National Resources Defense Council, six Great Lakes states are among the top 20 worst for air pollution from power companies. Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana ranked 2, 3 and 4 respectively. This study used data from 2010, showing that those 6 states are responsible for the addition of 117.9 million pounds of air pollution to our atmosphere the same year. Of those millions of pounds, 16,900 pounds were comprised of the toxic pollutant mercury.

Why does this matter to the parents in Ohio?

Considering this data, it should come as no surprise that Ohio has 13.7% of its population of children diagnosed with asthma. Six of our major cities ranked in the top 100 challenging places to live with asthma in 2012. Needless to say, this isn’t something of which we should be proud. Our children struggle to breathe because Ohio is one of the states that provides our nation with 62% of the electricity generation at the price of releasing 92% of the industry’s air pollution. Parents in Ohio spent the summer dealing with an onslaught of air quality alerts, and the return of high ozone levels. Now that school is back in session, we add to our air toxins soot from idling school buses five days a week.

Triumph: Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS)!

We lauded the victory of the Senate as they held firm and supported the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, despite the attempts from Senator Inhofe’s camp to roll back the original ruling and weaken the regulation. Mercury is a known neurotoxin, but is also responsible for the increase in asthma, chronic bronchitis, restricted activity days and thousands of hospital and emergency room visits. Mercury is an insidious air pollutant that, once deposited in the Great Lakes basin, continues to emit more than what has been removed. The MATS are the first national limits on power plants that will improve out quality of life by applying pollution control technologies to protect our children and our families from mercury, chromium, nickel and acid gases.

What comes next?

Simply put, we cannot rest on our laurels and think that just because the EPA has the go ahead to regulate pollution, we are no longer needed to fight for clean air. The EPA has new safeguards on soot pollution, but the cross-air rule was recently struck down. Air pollution has not only been shown to be a factor in decreasing lung functions, but it is also linked to infant death from SIDS. No parent should have to lose a child because of air toxins. No child should have to suffer because of fine particles in our air.

We invite you to stand with Moms Clean Air Force and be a voice for the children in the Great Lakes Region. All children in Ohio deserve nothing less than the full benefit of all the beauty of the Great Lakes.

Tell the presidential candidates to talk about global warming.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock


Julie W.
Jules W6 years ago

Thank you!

Stephen J Mazurek

As a current resident of west New York, right between Lake Erie Lake Ontario, I'm concerned.

Terry V.
Terry V6 years ago


Laurie Greenberg
Laurie Greenberg6 years ago

Yes and Lake Ontario has beautiful shores, but there are more days that swimming is prohibited due to pollution than not. It's sad to see the Great Lakes area suffer.



Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

I don't need to pay $10 or so for a ticket to a first-run movie to know that the ice in the arctic is rapidly melting. Even Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil admits that global warming exists and that human activity is a contributing factor. He claims there will be an engineering solution, meaning one that will not interfere at all with the obscene profitability of the fossil fuel industry. That means externalizing all the costs of extracting and burning fossil fuel. Why should fossil fuel firms be stuck with the bill for cleaning up after themselves.-- They OUGHT to be able to stick the taxpayers--the 99% taxpayers with the bill. Maybe the problem is urgent enough to make it worth while for United States taxpayers and our distant descendants to pay the mind-boggling cost rather than take a chance on losing agriculture to global warming. $35 trillion to buy plenty of sustainable energy equipment to barter with fossil fuel firms for the fossil fuel reserves displaced by it as it is displaced so fossil fuel firms will have a replacement product ($35 trillion is just in the United States--add third world for another $70 trillion to $165 trillion for world wide total of $105 to $210 trillion), then need to buy whatever fossil fuel reserves are left after all that barter and probably third world sustainable energy needs to be charity--not barter. So buying rest of fossil fuel reserves about twice cost of clean energy for fossil fuel barter. Also need to capture and store

pam w.
pam w6 years ago

This is SUCH sad news!

Unfortunately, I think it's the FUTURE....

Friends...the arctic is LOST and the climate is irrevocably changed. Our task now is to save what we can.

Kimberly S.
Kimberly S6 years ago

Well, as a native of Michigan, I find this to be a little alarming.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G6 years ago

Yes, humans are their own worst enemies!

cristiano t.

We are submerging our self with our same garbage.