This might be a face kids put on to make their friends laugh, but it's never a face a parent wants to see. Yet, there is an asthma epidemic in this country, and the more than seven million children suffering from this disease indeed find it hard to breath.
One reason is aging coal-fired power plants, which are the biggest source of mercury emissions. Owners have been too cheap to install the available filtering technology, and until recently, why should they? They been allowed to spew as much mercury and other toxics as they want into the air, because the United States had no regulating standards, and that has contributed to widespread respiratory illness. Pediatric asthma alone accounts for 14 million lost school days each year. Among children under the age of 15, it is responsible for more than half a million hospitalizations annually, and is the third leading cause of hospital stays.
Last December, buoyed by a chorus of support from thousands of mothers and others like you, President Obama finally signed the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule. Guess what? That rule will remove up to 90% of mercury from the air our kids breathe! Mercury can harm children's developing brains, affecting memory, attention, and IQ. The rule will also prevent 130,000 asthma attacks, providing relief to the one in ten American children suffering from asthma. In addition to arsenic, the new standard also addresses toxics like chromium and nickel, all of which can cause cancer.
Time to celebrate, right?
Well, no. Just as pediatricians, nurses and families across the country started putting on our party hats, the pro-pollution lobby moved into into action. Last week, the very same day that the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule we all fought so hard for was officially entered into the federal register, they launched their secret weapon to try to dismantle it: Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma.
At this very moment, Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma, whose Top-Five political supporters are energy companies with coal interests, is using the obscure Congressional Review Act (CRA) to try and kill it. With the CRA, a simple petition of only 30 Members of the Senate can move the rule to a joint resolution. A simple Senate majority vote on the join resolution would effectively kill the rule.