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EPA Administrator Introduces New Asthma Alert System for the City of Philadelphia - Discusses Benefits of President’s Clear Skies Plan for Public Health

Release Date: 3/28/2002
Contact Information: Donna Heron, (215) 814-5113

Donna Heron, (215) 814-5113

PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman today presented the University of Delaware with a check for $39,000 to develop an Asthma Weather Watch Warning System for the City of Philadelphia.

During the visit, Whitman also discussed the President’s Clear Skies plan -- an aggressive, mandatary initiative that will dramatically cut power plant emissions of three of the worst air pollutants, all of which contribute to asthma and other health problems.

“Nearly 5 million children across the country suffer from this disease which keeps them off the playground at recess and – too often – in the hospital or emergency room for treatment,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. “Just as startling as numerous trips to the hospital, are the days our children are missing from school – more than 10 million of them every year.

Clearly, asthma is not only hurting their health, it is hurting their education as well. By developing an early warning system for asthma sufferers – the first of its kind – the University of Delaware will help us prevent attacks, and trips to the hospital.”

“Of course, a warning is not enough – we must also work to limit the intensity of these conditions in the first place,” Whitman continued. “That is why President Bush recently announced the Clear Skies proposal which will significantly improve air quality in America. In fact, Clear Skies will be the most meaningful improvement to our clean air laws in more than a decade.

“This new proposal will reduce three harmful pollutants – nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury – from power plants by 70 percent over the next decade. It uses a system of cap-and-trade that places mandatory limits on emissions across the country, but gives power plants the flexibility they need to meet these targets in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.”

By using mandatory reductions over the next decade, the President’s initiative will remove a total of 35 million more tons of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury from the air than will be eliminated by the current Clean Air Act. At the same time Americans will experience tens of thousands fewer cases of asthma and other chronic respiratory afflictions.

Clear Skies will achieve these reductions more quickly and with greater certainty than under current law and is modeled on the Acid Rain Trading Program, the most successful clean air program in history, having achieved more tons of pollution reduction than all other 1990 Clean Air Act programs combined.

The new asthma alert system will provide asthma sufferers with up to 60 hours of advance warning that asthma triggers are forecast, which will allow time to take steps to minimize the debilitating effects.

The new alert system, developed by Dr. Laurence Kalkstein of the University’s Center for Climatic Research, will evaluate pollution and pollen counts, and for the first time, combine those statistics with weather conditions and oppressive air masses that are known to spike increases in emergency room admissions. Asthma sufferers in Philadelphia will benefit from first-of-a-kind advance warning of potentially harmful climate and pollen changes.

The Asthma Weather Watch Warning System will be administered by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and will be available to the public via an Internet website that will be updated twice daily. This year-round system will be ready for operation in November, 2002.

For more information on the President's initiatives, please visit or