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Child Health Champion and Ozone Announcement with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton Washington, D.C.

Carol M. Browner, Administrator U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Child Health Champion and Ozone Announcement with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton Washington, D.C.
May 21, 1998

     Thank you Secretary Shalala. I am delighted to join you, Dr. Ford, Dr. Zechman, and especially First Lady Hillary Clinton for these important announcements building on this administration's efforts to strengthen our families, protect our children, and safeguard the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the land on which we all live.

     Since the day they came to office, the President and Vice President have led the way for children's health. They have given this nation the strongest environmental and public health protections in the world.  

     This administration knows that too many of our children can get sick by breathing unhealthy air.  We know that poor air quality has been linked to many respiratory ailments, including asthma, the leading cause of hospital admissions for children in this country.

     That's why last summer, President Clinton announced the toughest action in a generation to protect our children from air pollution -- new, updated public health air standards for smog and soot. These new standards together will protect 125 million Americans, including 35 million children, from the adverse health effects of breathing polluted air. Each and every year, they will prevent approximately 15,000 premature deaths, 350,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and nearly a million cases of significantly decreased lung functioning in children.

     Breathing polluted air hurts our children's health -- plain and simple. And the danger exists indoors as well as outside.

     Twenty seven percent of the country's children live in a house where one or more adults smoke, leading to increased respiratory ailments, ear infections, and aggravated asthma.  No adult, no parent should smoke around their young child.     Pound for pound, children drink more fluids, eat more food, and breathe more air. Our young ones crawl on the floor, the older ones spend more time outdoors.

     That's why we have led the charge in Congress for a new, stronger Food Safety and Drinking Water Laws. Both require, for the first time ever, that children be protected.

     It is why this administration is protecting our children from lead poisoning by stepping up efforts to rid the nation's housing of old lead paint.

     It is why today, we are cleaning up the nation's toxic waste dumps faster, and more efficiently. No child should have to grow up near a Superfund site.  More than 500 of the nation's worst toxic waste sites have been cleaned up to date -- that's more than twice as many as in the previous 12 years combined.

     And now, parents have more information than ever before about toxic pollution being released into their community's air, land, and water.

     This administration believes that one of the best ways to protect children is by giving parents timely, accurate, relevant information about their health and their environment -- so they can make better, more informed decisions about how to protect their families and their communities.

     Our work to protect children's health goes on, and today the First Lady announces more actions to safeguard our nation's young people, including an important right-to-know tool that will help families day-to-day make decisions about how best to protect their children when ozone pollution is high. Today marks the beginning of the summer ozone season and is being recognized as Ozone Awarness Day in 22 states and the District of Columbia. These states have joined EPA to give people real time information about ozone levels in their communities. This is a significant step we take to protect our children who suffer from asthma.

     But can we rest? Is our work done? No. Not until we can say that every family neighborhood is free from toxic dumps; that every child is free from lead poisoning; that childhood asthma and cancer rates are falling, not rising.

     When we take steps to protect our children, we are taking steps to protect every American.

     As a mother and as a person whose job it is to protect the American people from environmental hazards, I thank the President, the Vice President, and the First Lady for all that they have done to ensure a safe, healthy environment for our children, our children's children, and all the generations to come.  Thank you.       And now I would like to turn the floor over to Dr. Linda Ford, the new president of the American Lung Association. For almost a century, the ALA has been a persistent and effective voice for clean air in this country -- a staunch defender of our children's respiratory health. I welcome Dr. Ford to her new position and her special expertise on asthma that she will bring to bear. Dr. Ford...