Choosing Polluters Over Children's Health

Let’s get straight to the point. When members of Congress choose to support bills that would prevent the EPA from updating Clean Air Act standards, they are making a choice to support polluters over the health of children and adults in America. Some of these bills will increase the amount of mercury, smog-forming, soot, toxic and carbon dioxide pollution that industrial plants will emit compared to if the EPA is allowed to do its job. Some will simply make it a law that we must allow industrial polluters to dump unlimited amounts of carbon dioxide into the air.

That’s why NRDC and Health Care Without Harm are teaming up today to make sure that the constituents of the members of Congress that have co-sponsored one or more Bad Air Bill know that their representatives are putting their health at risk.

Get today’s news release here.

How serious is the threat to health? Here’s what Brenda Afzel MS, RN, Health Care Without Harm’s Climate Policy Coordinator and member of the Executive Board of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments has to say about it:

“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. 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.”

There are over 7 million kids and over 17 million adults with asthma in the lower 48 states. Since those who suffer from asthma are so vulnerable to air pollution, we thought it would be helpful to show how many kids and adults with asthma live in the counties that are represented by members of Congress who want to block the EPA. Here’s a table of the Bad Air Bill cosponsors with details on asthma rates in their districts.

Behind the push to stop EPA from updating the Clean Air Act are polluters from the oil, coal and utility industries that don’t think protecting public health is worth the money to invest in cleaning up. So, the table includes polluter campaign contributions to the Bad Air Bill co-sponsors here. Many of these polluting contributors have prioritized blocking the EPA.

Here are the basics on the Bad Air Bills being pushed by members of Congress:

  • Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., introduced a bill (H.R. 97) that would permanently block EPA from limiting carbon pollution.
  • Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va., introduced a bill (H.R. 199) that would block EPA from taking any action under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon or methane pollution, for two years. 
  • Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, introduced a bill (H.R. 153) that would prohibit EPA from developing or enforcing standards to limit carbon pollution.
  • Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, has a introduced a resolution (H.J. RES. 9) that would permanently block the EPA from reducing the soot, mercury, cancer-causing toxic and smog-forming pollution that cement plants dump into the air.

What’s the link between carbon pollution and asthma? In 2009, EPA scientists determined carbon pollution is 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 said “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.”

NRDC has also explored the links. My colleague Kim Knowlton has written extensively about the ties between carbon, global warming and health.  

In 2004, a multi-disciplinary team of experts showed that warming temperatures will cause more days with unsafe ozone levels. The findings were published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Climatic Change, from which NRDC produced the report “Heat Advisory” that can be viewed here: The 2007 update to the report can be found here: