Originally created 05/31/97

Health group fights for new air standards



COLUMBIA - Environmental and health groups say more than 1 million South Carolinians are breathing unhealthy air while industries' lobbyists fight cleaner air standards.

The groups, including the South Carolina Sierra Club and the American Lung Association, brought a 10-foot tombstone to the Statehouse complex Friday to illustrate the 15,000 lives nationwide they say would be saved by the new air standards.

The proposed Environmental Protection Agency standards would require a reduction of about 10 percent in pollution byproducts that aggravate asthma and other respiratory ailments.

"This is about air pollution from industry and automobiles and tens of thousands of children who can't breathe properly on high-pollution days," said Tom Perlic, president of the state Sierra Club.

Greg White of the American Lung Association said about 175,000 South Carolinians suffer from respiratory illnesses not connected to smoking-related illnesses.

Nine-year-old Tyler Couch of Batesburg-Leesville has to use a breathing machine every morning. The condition "feels like a large weight on my chest," Tyler said.

His mother, Lori, says without cleaner air, Tyler and other children with respiratory illnesses won't be able to enjoy outside activities.

"We need to clean up the air so our children don't have to stay in," Ms. Couch said. "They have the right to go out and play."

The health groups said eight South Carolina counties have unhealthy air standards: Anderson, Cherokee, Chester, Pickens, Richland, Spartanburg, Union and York.