Point of View

Trump's clean air withdrawal will hit asthma sufferers hard


Recently, the Trump administration announced that it would repeal the 2015 Clean Power Plan, our country’s first and only federal limit on carbon pollution from existing power plants.

As a co-chair of the House Asthma and Allergy Caucus, and as a New Yorker, I am deeply concerned about how this decision will affect New Yorkers living with asthma, especially New York’s children.

About 25 million Americans live with asthma, including about 1.9 million New Yorkers. While asthma has no cure, people with asthma can manage their conditions and forestall asthma attacks by avoiding attack “triggers.” 

One such trigger, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is air pollution, which the Clean Power Plan would have curbed significantly.

And while allowing unchecked carbon pollution into our air will ultimately have implications for all Americans’ health, the consequences for children with asthma will be particularly dire.

Children make up nearly a quarter of Americans living with asthma today. And children with asthma are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change. By curtailing carbon pollution and other power plant pollutants, the Clean Power Plan was expected to prevent 90,000 pediatric asthma attacks and 3,600 premature deaths annually.

By revoking the plan, the Trump administration is standing in the way of this lifesaving progress.

That progress is sorely needed in New York City.

In our city alone, about 84,000 children live with asthma. Black and Latino children are disproportionately affected, as are children living in my district in the Bronx. What’s more, these same populations are most likely to have trouble affording the care they need to keep asthma in check.

The human toll that asthma takes on our city is heartbreaking. But even if asthma doesn’t affect everyone’s health, it certainly affects their finances. Asthma costs the American health care system more than $62 billion every year. That’s on top of billions in lost productivity due to missed work and school.

Just in New York City, children make more than 42,000 asthma-related trips to the emergency room every year. These costly visits could be avoided, and it’s inexcusable that they’re not.

There is no doubt that this administration is shortsighted when it comes to the long-term threats posed by climate change. But the decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan demonstrates that they’re also prepared to ignore immediate costs to our economy, and to children’s health.

The author represents the 16th Congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Eliot Engel