Advocates for Clean Air Act Go to Congress

Guest Blog | July 18, 2011 | Press Releases

Washington, DC (July 18, 2011) – This week, children, seniors, people with chronic illness and other at-risk Americans, some who live in dangerously polluted communities, will have a voice in Congress as advocates descend on Capitol Hill in support of clean air standards that reduce harmful air pollution and endanger public health; standards that are under attack by polluters and their allies in Congress. Seandra Rawls of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Dr. Yolanda Whyte, a pediatrician who volunteers with SACE, will be advocating on behalf of the people of Georgia as they meet with Congressional members from Georgia and the Southeast today.

“Supporting stronger standards to reduce dangerous air pollution and protect public health will ensure clean and healthy communities for everyone, especially for those who are most vulnerable and are at a greater risk,” says Seandra Rawls. “African Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, yet are disproportionately represented in areas with poor air quality, resulting in increased asthma attacks sending African Americans to the emergency room at three times the rate of others.”

Rawls and Dr. Whyte are asking members of Congress to oppose efforts to block clean air standards that would reduce air pollution from mercury, greenhouse gases, ozone, and harmful toxics like arsenic, soot, and other substances emitted by power plants and other polluters.

“This is a public health issue and all Americans have a stake in it,” said Yolanda Whyte, MD, Atlanta-based pediatrician. “Air pollution is linked to some of the nation’s most prevalent and chronic health conditions, including asthma and heart disease. Children deserve special protections because they receive a disproportionate burden of pollutants due to their smaller body size and earlier timing of exposure.”

Addressing emissions of mercury and other toxics would have similar health and economic benefits, including the prevention of as many as 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 heart attacks, 120,000 asthma attacks and about 11,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children annually. Cleaning up ozone can save thousands of lives each year and helps us rebuild our economy. The Clean Air Act has fostered a long period of economic development and has fueled job growth—1.3 million jobs were created by the Clean Air Act between 1977 and 1991. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that between 4,000 and 12,000 lives could be saved each year in the United States by cleaning up ozone pollution to 60 ppb (particulars per billion, a standard measurement of air pollutants). In addition, a 60 ppb standard will prevent 58,000 asthma attacks and 21,000 hospital and emergency room visits annually.

Millions of people live in communities where the air is routinely unsafe to breathe, particularly here in Georgia and other parts of the Southeast. The American Lung Association’s State of the Air Report shows nearly half of Americans live in areas with unhealthy ozone levels and one in five Americans live in areas with dangerous particulate pollution causing hospitalizations, missed work days and early deaths. In Georgia alone there are 322,751 residents who suffer from asthma, including 164,455 children that are particularly at risk.

“The Clean Air Act, which has helped improved our air quality and human health since its passage in 1970, has been an invaluable tool to carryout out our call to steward God’s earth. The recently proposed improvements to the Clean Air Act can save thousands of lives and protect the health of God’s Creation for future generations. We are meeting with policymakers this week to demonstrate the broad support among all Americans and people of faith to protect the public, particularly vulnerable populations, from air pollution and oppose efforts to weaken, postpone or prevent implementation of the Clean Air Act,” said Cassandra Carmichael, Director of the National Council of Churches Washington Office and Eco-Justice Programs. # # # Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the