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Stand with our generation for the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have estimated that about 10% of kids in America have asthma. If you randomly pick 10 of your friends, one should have asthma! These numbers are incredibly high, especially when they could be so easily decreased. Asthma and other similar respiratory diseases are caused by regular inhalation of polluted air. This air is made unsafe through emissions of particulates from power plants. These particulates are mixtures of microscopic elements that are not unsafe on their own, but in high concentrations in our atmosphere, can lead to tens of thousands of asthma cases, heart disease, and other health problems. These emissions also include sulfur dioxide, a gas that leads to haze and acid rain, huge problems in cities and natural environments. The United States government passed the Clean Air Act in 1970, a progressive attempt to enforce clean air standards. However, in 2002, at least 146 million Americans were living in regions where air pollution exceeded federal standards. This lax enforcement of national clean air standards has led to dramatic increases in asthma rates in the past fifteen years. There are estimations that we will see over 100 million new cases of asthma by 2025!

The most common argument that lawmakers make against raising clean air standards is that it makes the electricity that produces the pollution more expensive. In the short term, it does. However, the price that families pay for their electricity is imprecise. The real price takes into account the damage to our health and our environment: costs that have been externalized. For example, if a family pays $200 for electricity that heats and lights their house every month, and $50 every month for asthma medication for the daughter, the true cost of the coal used to power their home would be $250. The health costs are harder to take into account because they are often unseen and not connected to our energy usage. The difference between the current, cheaper price of energy and a new, enforced EPA restrictions price of energy is quickly made up in healthcare costs and the cost of cleaning up our environment. To avoid these costs, we should just enforce air pollution regulations now.

As youth living in America today, our parents’ generation is running the world we will soon be in charge of.  Why are we letting them ruin our atmosphere and health? It is unsafe and means that we will have only a polluted world to pass on to our children. Stand with our generation for the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, new rules and regulations that would control the emissions of our country’s power plants, and demand stronger regulations on air pollution! These regulations will help all of us: my best friend with asthma, my younger sister who likes to play outside, and our children who want a cleaner world.


Hannah Freedman has been involved with environmental activism on both a local and global scale for four years. Originally from Baltimore, MD, she is now a senior at United World College-USA in New Mexico and was selected to be a SustainUS Agent of Change youth delegate to the Rio+20 climate negotiations this summer.


Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2008 and Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survey, 2008.
American Lung Association. Epidemiology & Statistics Unit, Research and Program Services. Trends in Asthma Morbidity and Mortality, November 2007.

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