Mothers: it is time to be up in arms. The laws that protect the health of our children are under direct assault by industry. Three insidious bills are now pending before a shamefully receptive Congress to gut the Clean Air Act and to sideline its vigilant enforcer, the Environmental Protection Agency. How many more children are we willing to see suffer from asthma, cancer and other diseases through increased exposure of harmful air toxins? Is this a cost we are willing to have our children and our children’s children bear?
One of these bills, the HR 2250, misleadingly named the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, would void standards for industrial boilers and solid waste incinerators and delay industry compliance for 3.5 years. These delays have immediate and profound health consequences, allowing more lead, benzene, mercury and other cancer-causing dioxins into the atmosphere. The expected impact? According to Sustainable Business News, some 100,000 tons of toxic air pollution and up to 22,750 premature deaths, 143,000 more asthma attacks, and more than one million missed days of work or school
Another bill, the HR 2401, the TRAIN Act, (Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation), would block the cross-state air pollution rule, which curbs power plant smog and soot pollution, and the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, which limit mercury and other air pollutants from power plants.
The third bill, H.R. 2681 the so-called Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act, would void standards for cement plants and would give the industry freedom to pollute the air for years with high levels of mercury, soot and smog, acids and metals.
According to Pediatrician Dr. Cynthia Bearer, Professor of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University, children’s biological sensitivity (the capacity to be easily harmed) “places them at special risk for harm from a toxic exposure. Because a child is a growing, developing organism, she is especially vulnerable to the effects of exposure. Her metabolic reactions-the body’s way of processing and excreting toxic substances-are not as developed as those of an adult.” According to a major symposium study by the Children’s Environmental Health Network: “Children are not just “little adults.” Their biological sensitivity, exploratory behavior, and a diet very different from that of adults make children particularly vulnerable to environmental exposures.”
More broadly, the latter two bills seek to restrict the EPA’s regulatory authority. They are part of an all-out assault on the agency’s mandate to enact regulations that protect the atmosphere and the air that all of us, including our most vulnerable, children, the most vulnerable among us – breathe. There is enormous industry pressure and lobbying to try to overturn the 2007 Supreme Court’s unanimous decision to authorize our EPA to protect family health with the Clean Air Act.
United States religious leaders oppose this immoral attempt to undermine the health regulations that protect our families. The Conference of Bishops, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Evangelical leadership, the United Church of Christ, as well as the National Religious Partnership for the Environment and the URJ Religious Action Center all concur on the critical importance of the Clean Air Act and have supported the moral vision and work of the Environmental Protection Agency, under the stewardship of Administrator Lisa Jackson, in upholding these protections.
The need is urgent now. It is time for mothers, all concerned parents, and all who care for our children’s future, to call upon their representatives to speak out for the critical importance of clean air for their families and to ask them to vote against these bills. Congress and industry should never underestimate the power of mothers to act to protect their children and the children of future generations.