May 4 is World Asthma Day. Today people from across the globe will raise awareness of asthma and its impact on the lives of those millions of people who suffer from it. It should also be the day we in government recall our duty to safeguard the health of all Americans. Asthma is a lifetime disease. It is triggered by a variety of factors, including allergens, cigarette smoke, viral infections, foods, weather changes, and air pollution. Air passages become inflamed, making it difficult for sufferers to breathe, and sometimes resulting in critical emergency situations. It is dangerous, and it is costly. Our country spends around $3.2 billion every year just to treat asthmatic children. That is why I am particularly concerned that asthma is on the rise, and that polluting industries and cars are making matters worse. Seventeen million Americans suffer from asthma. It is the most common chronic health problem among our nation's children, causing missed school days, restricted activity, and costly medical bills. According to the American Lung Association, 9,000 children and 42,000 adults in Washington, D.C. alone have asthma. Scientific research has increasingly linked air pollution from power plants and tailpipe exhaust to asthma. For example, researchers at the University of Southern California recently discovered that children living in high-ozone areas and participating in outdoor sports were three times more likely to develop asthma than less active kids in less polluted areas. The scientists explain that children who exercise outdoors take in more of the dirty air than other kids, leaving them more susceptible to airway damage. A new report by the Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School expands upon such research by linking global warming gases to increased incidence of allergies and asthma in the inner city. The report states that rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, due mainly to fossil fuel combustion, not only trap more heat, but they promote greater pollen and mold growth and associated asthma. On World Asthma Day, the air may not be clear, but the message is: we must immediately and dramatically reduce smog- and ozone-forming pollution and global warming gases in order to protect public health. The President's Clear Skies initiative won't do the job, neither will the EPA's new administrative rules that just postpone real pollution reduction for a decade or more. I urge the Administration and the Congress to put aside partisan differences and polluters' special interests to protect the precious lives of those we represent. To live is to breathe. Until all Americans can breathe freely, our work is not yet done.