Environmental Protection

More than 24 million Americans have asthma.

NRDC: Lawmakers' Actions against Clean Air Will Put Children at Risk

The Natural Resources Defense Council and Health Care Without Harm say that efforts to block EPA's carbon dioxide pollution actions will result in adverse health consequences.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says that 123 U.S. representatives are supporting legislation (pdf) that would prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from updating the Clean Air Act. The group, along with Health Care Without Harm, is concerned that these actions will put Americans at increased risk of adverse health consequences.

According to the NRDC's press release, the following three bills and one resolution make up some of that legislation:

Marsha Blackburn

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) sponsored the "Free Industry Act" (H.R. 97) that the NRDC says would permanently block EPA from limiting carbon pollution. This bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on the day it was introduced, Jan. 5., and has seen no action since that time.

Shelley Moore Capito

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.) sponsored the "Protect America's Energy and Manufacturing Jobs Act of 2011" (H.R. 199), which the environmental action group says would block EPA from taking any action under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon and methane pollution, for two years. It has been sitting in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce since it was introduced on Jan. 6.

Ted Poe

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) sponsored the "Ensuring Affordable Energy Act" (H.R. 153), which the NRDC says would prohibit EPA from developing or enforcing standards to limit carbon pollution. It also has seen no action other than being referred to the energy and commerce committee on Jan. 5.

John Carter

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) has introduced a resolution titled, "Disapproving a rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants from the Portland Cement Manufacturing Industry and Standards of Performance for Portland Cement Plants" (H.J. RES. 9) that the NRDC says would permanently block EPA from reducing the soot, mercury, cancer-causing toxic and smog-forming pollution that cement kilns dump into the air. However, resolutions are not enforceable legislation.

Only time will tell if any of these bills will see further action.

The environmental action group also shared these numbers:

In 2009, EPA scientists determined carbon dioxide emissions are a public health risk, including its role in worsening the smog pollution to which asthmatics are particularly vulnerable. Regarding the effects on air quality, agency experts say “The evidence concerning adverse air quality impacts provides strong and clear support for an endangerment finding. Increases in ambient ozone are expected to occur over broad areas of the country, and they are expected to increase serious adverse health effects in large population areas that are and may continue to be in nonattainment. The evaluation of the potential risks associated with increases in ozone in attainment areas also supports such a finding.”

Warmer temperatures also are associated with increased morbidity and mortality due to increased weather events, such as hurricanes and floods; the spread of disease-bearing vectors; and heat-related illnesses, all of which incur additional health care costs.

“Putting the EPA in a political stranglehold will sentence tens of thousands of people to debilitating, respiratory illnesses such as asthma, adding to the burden of chronic disease in the nation and increasing the financial burden to the health care system,” said Health Care Without Harm’s Climate Policy Coordinator Brenda Afzal, MS, RN. “Let’s be clear: If these lawmakers are successful in blocking the EPA from doing its job to cut life-threatening pollution, more asthma sufferers, particularly children, will wind up gasping for breath.”

Health Care Without Harm, one of nearly 300 national and local health groups and other organizations, recently called on Congress to fully support EPA’s efforts to limit the pollution responsible for climate change, which increases a wide range of health risks. Pollution from cement kilns includes cancer-causing toxic pollution, mercury, soot and smog-forming pollution.

“Our elected representatives should hold big polluters accountable, not help them block the strong safeguards that would protect our health and quality of life,” said Dan Lashof, an environmental scientist and director of NRDC’s Climate Center. “We think the scientists and experts at the EPA should decide what pollution limits are needed, not politicians whose careers have been supported by big polluters.”

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