June 08, 2011

Cleaner Air Means Healthier Kids

Today is an "orange alert" day in Washington, DC. That means air pollution levels are high enough to be unhealthy for people with asthma and other sensitivities. In New Mexico, ash and smoke from the wildfires in Arizona are making the air similarly harmful for certain people.

With all of that happening, it's fitting that today I had the opportunity to co-chair a hearing with Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) on the effects of air pollution on a particularly sensitive group of people - children.

Children are much more susceptible to air pollution and more likely to develop health problems - including childhood asthma - from exposure to dirty air. As a lawmaker -- and a parent - I will defend every child's ability to breathe clean air. Keeping our children healthy and safe from these pollutants is not controversial; it's commonsense.

Congress is in the process of debating the Clean Air Act and pollution standards enforced and administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Rolling back Clean Air Act standards would mean putting children unnecessarily at risk.

One of our witnesses today was Dr. Dona Upson from the American Lung Association of New Mexico. I shared some of the messages that I've been getting from concerned parents in New Mexico with her and she explained just how air pollution causes asthma attacks. Watch that video below:

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Smog air pollution is a contributor to childhood asthma - with approximately 1 in 13 children affected across the country including 47,000 kids in New Mexico. Childhood asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism due to a chronic illness and it accounts for one-third of all pediatric emergency room visits, limits activity, interrupts sleep, and disrupts caregiver routines.

And all those effects of air pollution come at a cost. As Dr. Upson mentioned at the hearing today, "clean air standards not only save Americans' lives, they save Americans' money. In 2010, it is estimated that due to averted medical bills and sick days, the EPA standards amounted to $1.3 trillion in costs savings."

As we continue to debate the Clean Air Act and EPA air pollution standards, the information we gathered from this hearing will help Congress better understand how children are impacted by poor air quality.