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Asthma Event at Draper Elementary School with First Lady Washington, D.C.

Carol M. Browner, Administrator Environmental Protection Agency
                 Remarks Prepared for Delivery
    Asthma Event at Draper Elementary School with First Lady
                        Washington, D.C.

                          May 3, 1999

     Good morning. It's a pleasure to be here.

     A new century is just 241 days away. And for this new century we want to create an atmosphere in which our children strive for achievement -- not struggle for breath.

     To accomplish this, the Clinton-Gore Administration has for the past six years dedicated itself to protecting children's health, particularly from the rising asthma epidemic.

     The problem is real and its scope is sweeping. The Centers for Disease Control reports that in one 15-year period, asthma rates for all Americans jumped by 75 percent -- affecting 15 million Americans, including five million children.

     But it was the children who were hit the worst. Children under five years old, for instance, suffered a 160 percent increase in asthma rates. Asthma is now the most prevalent chronic disorder for children under 17. More than 100,000 children each year are hospitalized because of asthma, at a cost of $1.9 billion in medical expenses annually. And children with asthma miss more than 10 million school days a year.

     President Clinton, Vice President Gore and the First Lady decided they would not let this situation stand. And working through both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services, this Administration has already accomplished much in its battle to help our children breathe easier.

     We're working on many fronts to accomplish this.

     By enacting the toughest air quality standards in a generation, this Administration is protecting the health of 125 million Americans -- including 35 million children --from the harmful air pollution that contributes toward respiratory disease, asthma and even premature death.

     We're working for cleaner air indoors as well.

     In 1993, EPA released a landmark report that documented the harmful effects second-hand smoke has on children -- including links between second-hand smoke and the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. This report has helped change both public perception and public policy regarding second-hand smoke.
     We're also investing in research.

     In 1998, the Vice President announced funding for the first-ever research centers dedicated solely to studying children's environmental health hazards. There are now eight of these leading research institutions, with five specializing in the problems of childhood asthma. From Columbia University to the University of Southern California, we are making progress in understanding the environmental hazards our children face and what we can do to protect them.

     The Department of Health and Human Services is investing $100 million in asthma research -- and some of this work is already paying off in new scientific breakthroughs that help us understand and manage asthma more effectively.

     But we're also giving our families informational tools they can use to understand what pollutants are in the air so they can then take steps to protect their children.

     Last year the First Lady announced a new "right-to-know" tool -- the National Ozone Map. Smog -- which aggravates asthma -- is tracked with the aid of 400 monitors in 22 eastern states and the District of Columbia and then made available either over the Internet or through local weather reports. Families can use this information to make decisions about their childrens' daily activities and what effect it could have on their health

     This is a vital tool in protecting the health of children with asthma or other respiratory ailments.

     Along these same lines, the First Lady also announced the Administration's Child Health Champion Campaign pilot program, which jump starts local efforts to protect children from environmental health threats, such as second-hand smoke and asthma-triggering air pollution. In fact, Draper Elementary School -- as part of Ward 8 here in the Capital -- is one of 11 pilot programs across the nation receiving this valuable aide to children's health.

     Finally, earlier this year the First Lady announced the largest ever federal investment to fight childhood asthma -- a package totaling $68 million. The money will help pay for school-based asthma campaigns, new research, disease management strategies and public information campaigns.

     And today the First Lady will lead us in taking another step forward.

     The new century holds great promise for our children. The President, Vice President and the First Lady are working to make it a breathtaking time for all -- and breathless for none.

     And now I'd like to introduce Nikita Johnson, whose daughter Dominique suffers from asthma. Nikita will put a human face -- a child's face -- on what it's like to struggle daily with asthma.