Senator Thomas R. Carper Statement
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety and Subcommittee on Children’s Health and Environmental Responsibility hearing entitled,
“Air Quality and Children’s Health”
June 8, 2011
Summer is here, and that means kids outside swimming, playing baseball, and eating bar-b-que on the patio.
But in many parts of our country, summer also means smog and exposure to deadly air pollution.
The summer smog season – also known as the ozone season - is a powerful reminder of how important it is to have clean air to breathe.
Smog-causing air pollution from dirty power plants, automobiles, and other sources is linked to serious health problems like asthma, strokes, heart attacks -- and even early deaths.
Smog is especially dangerous for our children. Parents who have watched their kids with asthma suffer on high ozone days know this better than anyone.
Unfortunately, smog is not all we have to be concerned about when it comes to our children’s health.
Millions of our kids ride a bus to school, play on a playground or live in a community that exposes them to high levels of ozone, particle pollution or air toxics – all of which can severely impact children’s health.
In fact, nearly all air pollution is more dangerous to our children than to their parents for three primary reasons:
1. Their immune systems are still developing;
2. They breathe in more air in proportion to their body size than do their parents; and,
3. They are more likely to be outside for longer periods of time during the summer, exposing them to more air pollution.
As a parent, I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about my own children’s health. As a U.S. Senator, I worry about every child’s health.
That’s why I’ve worked so hard with my colleagues – Democrat and Republicans alike – to make sure that all our children have clean air to breathe, air that’s free of all types of air pollution.
We have made remarkable progress in cleaning up our air, especially in some parts of our country, but – if truth be told – we still have a long way to go in many parts of America.
More than 7 million American children have asthma -- including nearly 28,000 in Delaware -- and childhood asthma rates are still rising.
In fact, in Delaware alone, each of our three counties received a failing grade from the American Lung Association for the number of high pollution days they have experienced. That’s more than disappointing to me. It’s almost heartbreaking.
I’m not too old to remember that one of the great things about being a kid is getting to run and play outside. In fact, I still love to run distances with my oldest son who’s now 22 years old. Few things in life are better.
But kids with asthma get left behind on poor air quality days. Frequently, they have to give up fun as well as healthy exercise. They often have to restrict their most basic daily activities.
Moreover, those kids may have to miss school. Their parents may have to miss work. And, all the while, health care costs in America – already the highest in the world – continue to rise.
Those costs add up, too, to trillions of dollars lost every year in this country. That’s not millions. It’s not billions. It’s “trillions” with a “t.”
The Environmental Protection Agency is now considering sensible rules to reduce smog-causing pollution, as well as particle pollution, mercury pollution and other harmful air toxics.
For example, recent air toxic regulations for utilities would limit emissions of known toxics that affect the development of a child’s brain or nervous system or affect the way a child’s body develops.
These rules can give us all cleaner air, while reducing these pollutants will help prevent a wide variety of serious health threats to our children. And, in the end, we stand to achieve better health care results for less money. That’s right. Better results for less money.
It is my hope that today’s witnesses will provide us with new information and insights on what our federal government is doing well – and not doing well – so we can enhance the quality our nation’s air and protect the health and welfare of our citizens, especially our nation’s children.