08/24/2011 12:19 pm ET Updated Oct 24, 2011

We Need Strong Air Pollution Safeguards Now

Shortness of breath. Wheezing. Tightening of the chest. Coughing. These are just some of the symptoms of an asthma attack. If you've ever had one, you know the fear. If your child has ever had one, you know the terror. Asthma strikes 1 out of every 10 school children and is the number one illness that causes kids to miss school in the United States.

Now, if Lisa Jackson and the Environmental Protection Agency could do something to prevent thousands of asthma attacks every year -- shouldn't they do it? Nationwide, we're seeing Americans stand up and call for pollution standards that will clean up our air and protect public health.

Just last week in Washington, DC, activists took to the sidewalks in front of EPA's headquarters to urge the agency and the Obama administration to immediately issue strong clean air protections.

Dressed in yellow 'Beyond Coal' t-shirts and displaying human-sized inhalers, the activists urged the EPA to stop postponing the announcement of the new safeguard that would reduce ground-level ozone pollution (also known as smog).

Late last month, the EPA pushed back its deadline for issuing the standard for the fourth time and has yet to set another date.

We've written about pollution and public health before. For example, Rosa"s story about her son and his asthma attacks. They live in the shadows of South Chicago's two ancient, polluting coal-fired power plants. If you need more gripping stories from Americans suffering from the effects of coal's air pollution -- look no further than our asthma page.

Coal-fired power plants -- along with cars -- are a major source of pollution, causing asthma attacks and many other respiratory illnesses. The longer the Obama administration delays the ozone standard, the longer children will suffer -- especially on Code Red and Code Orange air pollution days, where people are encouraged to stay inside because of excessive air pollution.

Kids suffering asthma attacks; increased respiratory illnesses; more heart disease; more emergency room visits -- How many more ways can we describe the urgent need for strong air pollution standards?

Join us in sending a message to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to issue a strong, science-based pollution standard immediately to clean up our air and protect our health.

This post was co-written by Sierra Club Conservation Director Sarah Hodgdon and Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.