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What Would Happen if all the Lobbyists for Polluters were Replaced by Asthmatic Children?

Dan Lashof

Posted March 7, 2012

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to propose standards that limit carbon pollution from new power plants soon. Americans rely on EPA to protect our health from dangerous air pollution and that’s what these standards—along with related standards EPA needs to issue to reduce carbon pollution from existing plants—will do.

But only if Congress lets EPA do its job. That's why NRDC is on the air starting today with a new ad to remind our Representatives and Senators that they should be representing us, not the polluters. Members of Congress see lobbyists for polluters all the time, but how often do they see children suffering from the effects of air pollution? So we are asking, what would happen if all those lobbyists were replaced by asthmatic children?

 I hope you’ll agree that this is indeed a very powerful reminder of who our representatives should be listening to. It will be even more effective if you take a moment to let the EPA know that you support reducing industrial carbon pollution at

In 30 seconds we can’t provide a science lesson for Congress with references to the extensive research linking air pollution to health, but in case there are any doubters out there (and I know there are) let me provide an introduction to this literature.

The key factual statement in the ad is that “air pollutants like carbon, mercury, and soot contribute to severe asthma attacks, learning disabilities, and even deaths.” Let’s consider these health effects one at a time.

Asthma attacks. Smog pollution (aka ozone) triggers severe asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. The connection between carbon, climate and asthma is one of the key concerns that led to EPA’s determination in December of 2009 that carbon dioxide and other warming gases “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations,” noting that “climate change is expected to increase regional ozone pollution, with associated risks in respiratory illnesses and premature death.” 

As the American Lung Association puts it, “Scientists warn that the buildup of greenhouse gases and the climate changes caused by it will create conditions, including warmer temperatures, which will increase the risk of unhealthful ambient ozone levels. …Breathing ozone may lead to serious harm to health, including…increased risk of asthma attacks.” (References)

Learning disabilities. Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin and EPA has recently issued standards to reduce mercury emissions from power plants and industrial boilers, which some members of Congress are trying to overturn. Among the many reasons for these standards, EPA says “uncontrolled releases of mercury from power plants can damage children’s developing nervous systems, reducing their ability to think and learn.” Documented health effects include lower IQ, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and impaired memory and motor skills. (References are in footnote 11 of this factsheet.)

Even deaths. Air pollution contributes to premature deaths in many ways. In particular, soot (aka fine particles) causes thousands of premature deaths every year from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, according to the American Lung Association and the EPA. Carbon pollution also contributes to premature deaths by driving climate change that exacerbates deadly heat waves, spreads infectious disease, and intensifies floods. The elderly and children are particularly vulnerable (References here.)

Which brings us back to kids. We actually wish we could replace all the lobbyists for polluters with kids who suffer from asthma.

Kids like Daniel from Pittsburgh, who nearly died from an asthma attack at the age of 12, requires costly medications in order to breathe and whose mother keeps their home’s windows closed on warm days because of the effects of air quality on Daniel’s asthma.

In this video, Daniel’s mom poses the question: “what if it was your child who was gasping for air?”

“If there was less pollution, definitely I believe that would be better for my asthma,” Daniel says.

Ultimately it’s that simple.

If members of Congress could see the effects of air pollution every day, maybe they would stop trying to prevent EPA from doing its job.

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Hunter CuttingMar 7 2012 06:20 PM

A great ad.

A simple pointed question really exposes the charade of the big business polluters.

Protecting carbon pollution from regulation may provide profits today for lobbyists, but there are losers today, too - and our kids are just some of them.

Thomas A DarlingMar 9 2012 01:15 PM

Upon review of your latest TV commericals requesting support for the latest EPA clean airi standards. I find this commercial morally repugnant and reprehensible. As an Asthmatic, using my breathing problems as an excuse to support shutting down 1/8 of the countrys power generation capacity is abombidable.

As an Asthmatic where were you when the EPA declared my over the counter inhalor as a contributer to global warming! Now instead of being able to replace my inhalor at the corner drug store for $15.00. Now I have to spend over $200.00 each time now that I have to have a doctor's prescription to replace my inhalor. Now before you say "just put it on the insurance card". Who pays for my insurance? Me.

So NRDC, where were you? Oh and upon review of the ACS's sources. All the titles have political agenda in the titles (shades of East Anglia Unversity).

So shame on the American Cancer Society, and shame on the NRDC for promoting making life harder and more costly to everyone!

BSMar 9 2012 08:56 PM

Thomas--Thanks for sharing. My son also has asthma, likely a result of being born very premature.

The NRDC doesn't seem to care about anything but the idealistic causes they blindly promote. Your personal experience is a great example of that.

They don't care about you except when they can use you to support their agenda.

BSMar 10 2012 07:57 AM


I just picked up on some aditional irony related to banning your OTC inhaler. So instead of driving to the store and buying it, you have to drive to the doctor's office and then drive to the store and buy a more expensive one.

Now, I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I'm pretty sure the greenhouse gases released when you drive back and forth to your doctor's office are far worse for the environment that a tiny bit of propellant gas in an inhaler, don't you think?

Dan LashofMar 12 2012 11:04 PM

I think most people recognize that the only agenda of the American Lung Association (ALA) is to reduce lung disease. ALA's discussion of the phase out of certain types of inhalers can be found here:

Dan LashofMar 13 2012 03:37 PM

These comments from the Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics are even more pertinent:
"Primatene Mist was developed over 50 years ago and is no longer recommended for use by patients with asthma. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) developed National Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma two decades ago and has updated them three times since as a result of new evidence-based science concerning the disease of asthma. Neither NIH asthma guidelines nor the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) guidelines recommend epinephrine inhalers for the treatment of asthma.

Two inhalations of epinephrine provide breathing relief for approximately 15-30 minutes along with serious side effects, whereas two inhalations of prescription bronchodilators, recommended medication by NIH for asthma, last 3-6 hours with less unwanted cardiac stimulation. Primatene Mist is not a cheaper alternative — over the long term, it is more money for far less relief and worse side effects. Knowledge of the disease of asthma has drastically changed the way it is treated, and not surprisingly, 1950s treatments are no longer considered safe or up to current alternative treatment standards."

The full release from AANMA is here:

Jesse WoodingMar 15 2012 03:39 PM

Yeah, we really need to make sure we lobby against all those evil polluters out there. Let's stop anyone from emitting exhaust fumes, because we all know it kills asthmatics every time someone pollutes the air. Shut it all down!

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