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Clear Skies and Asthma Event at Children's Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
Kansas City Clear Skies Hospital Event
Kansas City, Missouri

May 9, 2003

Thank you Jim (Gulliford) for that introduction. I want to thank the administrative officials and staff of Children = s Mercy Hospital for the opportunity to see first hand the good work that you are doing on behalf of children = s health. You are making a real difference in the lives of the children you treat. Your particular work with asthma mirrors our own concern and focus at EPA on a disease that continues to spread and impair the health of our children.

As you know, asthma has grown to epidemic proportions in our country. Over 6 million children under the age of 18 suffer from asthma B a number that has doubled over the past two decades. In Kansas City alone, 23,500 children are currently battling asthma. Asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism B accounting for 14 million missed school days a year nationwide, and it is one of the leading causes of hospitalization for children under the age of 15.

Today, I = ve had the opportunity to meet some of the children and families who are directly affected by this illness. I want to assure you that we are meeting asthma head on in our efforts to reduce the number of children who suffer from this disease. While we do not know all the causes of asthma, we do know that air pollution can make asthma worse. That is why this Administration = s work to improve outdoor air quality, especially the President = s Clear Skies Act, will have a direct impact on children suffering from asthma.

Clear Skies is the most significant improvement to the Clean Air Act in more than a decade and the most aggressive proposal any Administration has ever made to reduce emissions from power plants. Clear Skies will achieve mandatory reductions of 70% of three of the most dangerous pollutants emitted by power plants B nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury. We will remove 35 million more tons of these pollutants from the air over the first ten years of Clear Skies than the current Clean Air Act would achieve in that same time frame. This will provide dramatic health benefits to the American people every year, including preventing 12,000 premature deaths and reducing by 15 million the days when sufferers of asthma and other respiratory illnesses are unable to work, go to school, or carry out their normal day to day activities because of bad air quality.

Right here in Missouri, we estimate that the combined economic value of the health and environmental benefits of Clear Skies will be $2 billion a year beginning in 2020. And, every year there will be at least 11,000 fewer asthma attacks and 300 fewer premature deaths. The President has made it clear that signing this bill into law is one of his top domestic priorities, and that is because Clear Skies is a clear win for the American people B especially for our children with asthma.

Clear Skies complements our other air initiatives, such as our work to address the emissions from mobile sources and our recently launched Clean School Bus USA initiative to improve the pollution performance of our public school buses. It = s also important to point out that though most of us think of outdoor air when we think of air pollution, indoor air pollution can be just as harmful. That is why EPA is working to ensure greater indoor air quality through programs such as Tools for Schools and the National Asthma Awareness campaign, which help school officials and parents identify indoor environmental triggers.

In addition, we are also working in partnership with organizations such as the American Lung Association to lead a smoke-free home initiative. From Clear Skies to indoor air efforts, reducing the number of children who suffer from asthma is one of the top priorities of the Environmental Protection Agency and Administration. To support this effort, the President has requested a $3 million increase in his FY 04 budget to combat children = s asthma B raising total funding to $23.9 million. Of course, the government can only do so much, and we depend upon the work of those of you here on the front lines researching and fighting this disease.

For so many children the struggle to breathe is a difficult hardship to overcome. By working together, we can help them surmount this disease and improve the quality of life for thousands of children in Missouri and across our nation. Thank you.