Fifteen years ago this week, my youngest son spent his very first Christmas in the hospital fighting to breathe. It was one of his earliest battles with asthma, a disease both he and his brother have struggled with over the years.
So when I say that clean air and children’s health are top priorities for me as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, I’m saying that as a mother who knows exactly how vital clean air is to my own children’s health. It’s something I bring to work with me each day, and it’s part of the reason I’m so excited about a recent step EPA took to safeguard the air we breathe and protect our kids from harm.
Last week, we finalized the nation’s first-ever Mercury and Air Toxics Standards — or MATS — for power plant emissions. Before MATS, there were no national standards to limit the amounts of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases power plants across the country could release into the air we breathe. As a mother, I can’t overstate the importance of this change. Mercury is a neurotoxin that’s particularly harmful to children, and emissions of mercury and other air toxics have been linked to damage to developing nervous systems, respiratory illnesses and other diseases. MATS will require power plants to take steps that also reduce particle pollution, which has been linked to premature death and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.