You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

America’s parks deserve cleaner air

The National Park Service will celebrate 100 years of service this summer and record numbers of visitors are expected to visit national parks this year, surpassing last year’s record of 305 million. When visitors come to experience “Americas Best Idea,” they expect to be greeted by pristine areas, clear views and clean air.

Unfortunately, these expectations may not be met. Many national parks have poor air quality. Some parks are affected by pollution for over a month each year. Poor air quality can mean that visitors are prone to breathing polluted air, which can cause a variety of health problems.

Highly respected medical societies advocate the improvement of air quality nationwide. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has called for a lower standard of ozone to decrease the risk of asthma and promote healthy lung function. Furthermore, the American Heart Association has found that exposure to harmful small particulate matter air pollution can be detrimental. Better air quality equals better health for people of all ages.

When we visit the Georgia wilderness areas like Cohutta, Okefenokee, or Wolf Island, or head to the Great Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah, or the Grand Canyon National Parks, we should be able to take a deep breath without putting our health at risk. Reduced visibility from haze pollution also prevents visitors from having the full experience of visiting a park. Air pollution can also produce acid rain, which harms plants and wildlife.

The EPA’s Regional Haze Rule provides some of the strongest protections of air quality in our national parks and wilderness areas. But in order to protect national park visitors and employees from poor air quality, the rule needs to be strengthened. In response, the EPA has proposed revisions to this rule to decrease air pollution and put us on a path toward clean air in our parks.

Since air pollution crosses state lines, the proposed change clarifies every states responsibility to improve air quality in the parks and wilderness areas affected by its pollution sources. States will also be required to conduct more robust technical analyses to support their haze plans.

But the proposed revisions have limitations that need to be strengthened. If these limitations aren’t addressed, it could allow states to not take action on a source of pollution, identified by a park superintendent or other federal land manager, for up to ten years. This would weaken the ability of the EPA or the public to force remedial action if states fail to meet their required pollution reduction obligations.

Our national parks are among our country’s greatest achievements, and as we look toward their next 100 years, we need to ensure our children and the generations of visitors that will follow can have the healthy experience in our national parks they deserve.

By adopting the proposed changes that strengthen the Regional Haze Rule and rejecting those that would weaken it, we can leave a legacy of cleaner, healthier air for America’s national parks, and for all the deep breaths taken within them. To comment on the regional haze rule and protect our parks go to before August 10.

David S. Eisner, M.D., is Interim Director of the Premedical Studies Program at the University of Georgia, and serves on the Southeastern Regional Council of the National Parks Conservation Association.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

New study: Black girls as young as 5 seen as less innocent than white peers
New study: Black girls as young as 5 seen as less innocent than white peers

A study released today by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality finds black girls are regarded as older and less innocent than white counterparts, a bias that particularly affects girls between the ages of 5 and 14. The study says this “adultification” may contribute to the disparate discipline of black girls in schools...
Opinion: Another question raised about estimate of Senate health bill
Opinion: Another question raised about estimate of Senate health bill

Sen. Marco Rubio speaks with reporters on Tuesday. (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite) WASHINGTON — The big news this week turned out not to be a health-care vote on Thursday or Friday, but the concession by GOP Senate leadership on Tuesday that they don’t yet have the votes for the bill and won’t bring it to the floor before the July...
Medicaid’s rise symbolic of liberals’ welfare state run amok

The number of Americans enrolled in Medicaid has increased from 29 million in 1990 to 73 million today — an increase of 252 percent over a period when the nation’s population increased 30 percent. Total spending on Medicaid today is $574 billion, 275 percent above the $209 billion of 2000. Medicaid amounts to about 40 percent of the total...
Readers Write: June 28

Media plays a role in inciting violence Instead of pointing fingers at Congress, the media should finally acknowledge that, since last November’s presidential election, it may be responsible for inciting some of the present-day violence in America. Even though elected in our democracy to serve the American people as president, Donald Trump has...
Opinion: The GOP health-care plan turns out to be no plan at all

For the last eight years, Republicans have claimed to have a plan to improve health care. If you didn’t like the deductibles under Obamacare, they told you that their plan would lower those deductibles. If you didn’t like rising premiums, their plan would lower those premiums. If you didn’t like the fact that Obamacare left 28 million...
More Stories