Since the Environmental Protection Agency announced the first-ever national limits on the carbon pollution from new power plants on Tuesday, medical and public health organizations have been praising this new safeguard.
Thanks to the new standard, energy companies will be required to capture and store carbon emissions in any coal-fired plant they build. This is a major step forward in America's efforts to combat climate change and build a safer and healthier future for our children. Click here to submit your comment in support of this new safeguard against carbon pollution.
Members of the coal industry, however, complain that taking responsibility for their pollution will be too costly and require too much innovation. They would rather stay dirty than modernize, and they have fought the new carbon standard every step of the way.
But what is cheap and easy for polluters isn't always good for Americans.
That's why more than 70 percent of people support new standards for carbon pollution from power plants, according to a new poll released by the American Lung Association. They know it will help protect their families from a major health hazard.
Carbon pollution contributes to climate change, which causes temperatures to rise. Hotter temperatures mean more smog in the air, and breathing smog can inflame deep lung tissue. Repeated inflammation over time can permanently scar lung tissue, even in low concentrations.
The American Thoracic Society -- the professional association of lung doctors -- recently said climate change is especially dangerous for children and senior citizens because their lungs are more vulnerable to respiratory diseases caused by smog.
Smog pollution is also hazardous for people living with asthma, because it can trigger asthma attacks. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 24.6 million Americans suffer from asthma -- a 12 percent increase over the last decade. One in six African American children has asthma, while Latinos are three times more likely to die from asthma than other racial or ethnic groups.
There are faces and families behind these statistics. Kim Crouch, a mother from Detroit, says she lives in fear of not being able to help her 12-year-old son when he has an asthma attack. He had his first attack on a field trip to the zoo and said, "It felt like getting pushed into a locker. I couldn't feel my legs, I couldn't feel my arms. I started to get dizzy. I felt like this was probably the last moment on Earth." Kim said that when they rushed to the hospital, doctors told them "it was just a bad air day, and that's why so many kids were there that day."
Carbon pollution contributes to these bad air days by intensifying climate change. It also intensifies heat waves. Much of the nation experienced record temperatures this month. Chicago had eight 80-degree days in a row, while nationwide more than 4,400 record highs were set in one week. Some people enjoyed the blast of summer air in the midst of March, but when heat waves hit in July and August, they can be deadly.
A blistering heat wave that gripped California in 2006 was linked to 655 people's deaths, 1,620 hospitalizations, and more than 16,000 excess emergency room visits -- resulting in nearly $5.4 billion dollars in medical costs, according to a recent study by NRDC scientists and university economists that looked at health care costs associated with six climate-change-related events in the last decade.
Americans are already paying the price for record heat waves, dirty air, and an unstable climate. We need to fight these threats with every weapon we have, and the electricity industry has to do its fair share. The new carbon standard will help make that happen.
This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.