BY ON April 15, 2011

This piece was cross posted at Non-Toxic Kids.

Have you been to the Emergency Room with your child? There is nothing worse than when your child is hurt, seriously sick or in pain, and needing medical attention. This brings you right back to what is truly important in life.

Child's asthma drawingFor me, this happened when I learned that my oldest has a life threatening allergy to peanuts. For my good friend, it happens every single time her 5 year old son gets a serious cold or flu. His breathing gets labored, raspy, and inefficient. He struggles for air, often in the middle of the night– and they make a dash for the ER, for the high powered medication that can get his lungs working again, fast. Each time, my dear friend anguishes as he suffers, and each time, she is sent home with a nebulizer for him to use for a few weeks until the virus clears his sensitive lungs.

And he is far from alone. According to a recent report by Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), more than 24 million Americans — including 7 million children — suffer from asthma, with direct and indirect costs of treating the nation’s worsening asthma epidemic already exceeding $53 billion.

As for those harried ER visits? More than 688,000 children had to go to the emergency room because of asthma in 2008. Asthma effects children’s education as well, because asthma episodes keep children out of school (accounting for about 10.5 million lost school days in 2008) and take adults out of the workplace (accounting for more than 14 million lost work days in 2008).

And right now, at this very moment, in the halls of Congress and led by House Repulbicans, there is a movement to cut the funding and power of the EPA. The EPA and the Clean Air Act has saved our children from needless suffering, and in some cases, premature death.

According to a recent EPA analysis, the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 currently prevent 1.7 million cases of asthma exacerbation and by 2020 will prevent 2.4 million. By blocking the EPA from making additional needed updates today, federal lawmakers would be allowing increases in soot, smog, carbon, and other air pollution that would cause asthma incidence to increase.

Science has established that air pollution from cars, factories, and power plants is a major cause of asthma attacks. A research study published in 2002 estimated that 30 percent of childhood asthma is due to environmental exposures. Studies also suggest that air pollution may contribute to the development of asthma in previously healthy people. Key air pollutants that trigger asthma include ground-level ozone, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxide. Carbon dioxide pollution can also worsen asthma. One of the best-documented impacts of climate change is an increase in ground-level ozone smog concentrations, in response to rising temperatures (the hotter the temperature and the more incident sunlight, the more ozone tends to form).

As parents, we want more than anything to keep our kids safe. Right now, decisions are being made that would benefit large corporations, politicians, and polluters– not our children, especially those like my friend’s son who suffers from asthma. We have the power to stop this suffering– as parents, collectively, to protect all children, we should use it. Please click here to learn how you can help.

**This post was written with information from the recent study by Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN).

TOPICS: Asthma, Coal, Economics, Politics, Pollution