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Budget Announcement of the Asthma Initiative with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton

Carol M. Browner, Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Budget Announcement of the Asthma Initiative
with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
                         Washington, DC
                         January 28, 1999

     Welcome all, and thank you for coming today. I am delighted to join Jacy Haas, a mother who knows first hand how asthma affects the daily lives of millions of our nation's children. I am also delighted to be here with Secretary Shalala, and especially First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton for this important announcement. Today, this administration is taking children's health protection into the 21st Century.

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

     This administration knows that too many of our children 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. About five million children now suffer from this debilitating disease. And what's even more troubling -- the incidence of asthma in children under age five has increased 160 percent from 1980 to 1994.

     Clearly, we must do more to protect our children.

     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 nine 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 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. We've cleaned up nearly three times more toxic waste sites in the last six years than the previous administration did in 12.

     It is why this administration is providing parents with more information than ever before about toxic pollution being released into their community's air, land, and water -- because this administration believes that's the best way for families to make the most informed decisions about how to protect themselves from environmental hazards. Last year in May, the First Lady announced an important right-to-know tool that will give people real time information about smog levels in their communities -- a significant step to protect our children who suffer from asthma.

     But can we rest? Is our work done? Not until we can say that every neighborhood is free from toxic dumps; that every child is free from lead poisoning -- that childhood asthma rates are falling, not rising.

     Today, the First Lady has another important announcement, which will make great progress for the nation's asthmatic children.

     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 Secretary Shalala -- a leader in our efforts to protect children's health and the health of all Americans. Secretary Shalala...