Committee Chair Urged to Consider Nation's Health; Congress's Focus on Polluter's Profits Over Improvements to Public Health "Inconceivable"
WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Efforts to restrict the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to reduce air pollution under the Clean Air Act are putting the nation's health at risk to serve the special interests of industrial polluters and must be stopped, according to the environmental health organization Health Care Without Harm. The organization called on Members of Congress to reject legislation which fails to protect public health and puts priorities of polluters over the well-being of the nation. The group is specifically concerned about legislation being proposed by Rep. Fred Upton, (D-MI), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
"Air pollutants are known to cause asthma attacks and are linked to heart and lung disease and other chronic illnesses," stated Gary Cohen, President of Health Care Without Harm. "Failure to allow the EPA to safeguard our air directly threatens thousands of people with asthma and other chronic illnesses, including children. With one out of 10 children in the United States affected by asthma, we don't have to look farther than our own neighborhoods to see the suffering and actual risk to life caused by polluted air. Nothing could instill fear in a parent like a child unable to breathe."
The national health cost for treating people with asthma is $20 billion a year, including more than $5 billion in indirect costs such as lost productivity. Government estimates that about 75 percent of all health care expenses in the United States are spent on managing chronic illnesses like asthma, respiratory and heart disease, which are exacerbated by air pollution.
"Nurses understand and have seen first hand in our nation's emergency rooms, hospitals, and communities the devastation caused by air pollution," said Health Care Without Harm's Climate Policy Coordinator Brenda Afzal, MS, RN. "The public's health should not suffer while members of Congress put corporate profits ahead of the public's health."
The EPA's authority has been the target of a number of bills from House Republicans since the First session of the 112th Congress began on January 5. Since 1970, when the Clean Air Act was first passed, air quality overall in the country has improved. Yet, many pollutants, included carbon dioxide, are not included under the Clean Air Act. The new legislation being proposed aims at preventing the EPA from limiting carbon dioxide pollution and other pollutants and toxins.
The bills would allow polluters to continue to dump millions of tons of pollutants into the air, endangering public health and exacerbating the threat of diseases. Recent information, including studies from the World Health Organization and the President's Cancer Panel, finds that air pollutants are linked to a wide range of illnesses, including increased respiratory symptoms, aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, heart disease and stroke, cancer, heat related illness, neurological impacts and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
"EPA scientists should be free to update the Clean Air Act and put in place ways to improve the air we breathe to protect human health and the environment," stated Cohen. "It is inconceivable that, instead of turning its attention to reducing the nationwide epidemic of chronic disease and runaway health care expenses, some members of Congress want to spend their time blocking attempts to improve air quality that would protect the nation's health."
HCWH is an international coalition of more than 430 organizations in 52 countries, working to transform the health care industry worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. For more information see www.noharm.org .
SOURCE Health Care Without Harm