NRDC's Senior Scientist Kim Knowlton reports, "national asthma rates are rising again, in all age categories but especially among children…. 25 million Americans now have asthma." CAPAF's Marta Cook explains what you can do for them.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund, a sister organization of CAP, is leading a campaign to curb asthma and other harmful health effects from coal-fired power plants. This campaign is already underway, and it will continue until July 5, 2011. It provides a new opportunity for faith communities to expand their environmental stewardship advocacy efforts at the federal level.
Faith communities across the country are at the forefront of efforts to protect and preserve our nation's land, air, and water—what many of them call "creation care." To them, creation care is a matter of stewardship of the natural resources God has given to humans. Further, pastors, rabbis, and imams participate in clean environment campaigns like this because they see the human consequences of dirty energy—kids in their congregations suffering from asthma, parents battling cancer, and some even suffering from mercury poisoning.
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Last December, 56 faith organizations nationwide called on Congress to protect the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate pollutants, including greenhouse gases and smog. They wrote: "We…urge you to oppose any efforts to undermine the authority of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. We urge you to protect the Clean Air Act and allow the EPA to use the full strength of the law to ensure that God's Creation and God's children remain healthy."
At the state and local level, congregations and faith groups are actively involved in regulation advocacy campaigns because they are seeing the dire consequences of unregulated industry in their cities and towns. North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light, for example, organized a grassroots letter-writing campaign and speakers at a public hearing regarding the dangers of coal ash in North Carolina, where ponds with higher than acceptable levels of arsenic and zinc (found in coal ash) are connected to cancer and other diseases.
People of faith are particularly inspired to advocate for regulations decreasing air and water pollution because of the greater impact of pollution on those most vulnerable in their communities, including infants, children, and people of color. Protecting the vulnerable is considered one of the most sacred of moral values for all major faith traditions.
Science has long shown that mercury poisoning can cause brain damage and even early death for children. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that African-American children have the highest number of asthma attacks among all ethnic groups, and Latino children are 60 percent more likely to suffer from asthma attacks than white children. Likewise, more than 71 percent of African Americans and 66 percent of Latinos live in areas that fail to meet one or more of the EPA's air quality standards.
The EPA took a critical step toward cleaner air in March by proposing its first-ever air toxics standards for coal-fired power plants. The proposed rule would limit emissions of mercury, arsenic, and other air toxics from power plants for the first time. Adoption of the air toxics rule will prevent approximately 17,000 premature deaths, 120,000 asthma attacks, and 12,000 hospitalizations and emergency room visits every year, according to the EPA.
The facts are clear. The moral choice is clear. People of faith—indeed, all Americans—should take action and support the EPA so our families—especially our children—don't become casualties of dirty energy.
Marta Cook is a Research Assistant to the Faith & Progressive Policy Initiative and the Progressive Studies Program.