Retired National Football League (NFL) legend Jerome Bettis met with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson Dec. 15, before meeting with members of Congress on behalf of the Clean Air Council (CAC) to advocate for the EPA’s clean air rules. Bettis, an asthmatic, was joined by Katie Feeney, policy analyst at CAC, to discuss the health benefits of clean air in advance of the release of EPA’s Utility MACT, or Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, expected to be issued in the next few days. The rule, which would require the first nationwide reductions of hazardous emissions of mercury, lead, arsenic and acid gases from coal-fired power plants, would save up to 17,000 lives and prevent 120,000 cases of aggravated asthma a year, according to the EPA.
Mr. Bettis, nicknamed “The Bus,” urged that no delay or legislation be passed to prevent the lifesaving rule from going into effect. He will be meeting with:
- EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson
- Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA)
- Congressman John Dingell (D-MI)
- Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA)
“I am excited to join the Clean Air Council, whose mission is to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air, in meeting with elected officials to talk about an issue that I am so personally connected to,” said Jerome Bettis. “I’ve been involved with asthma education for a number of years. When I learned how vital the clean air rules are to people’s health, and realized how polluted air exacerbates my asthma, I knew I had to speak out. The Toxics Rule will save thousands of lives, including the lives of children, across the country. I can’t imagine a more worthy cause.”
According to the EPA, the rule will also avoid 12,000 hospital visits, 4,500 cases of chronic bronchitis, 11,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 12,200 hospital and emergency room visits, 220,000 cases of respiratory symptoms and 850,000 days when people miss work annually. In Bettis’ native Michigan, 1,056 pollution-related deaths, 487 hospital admissions and 1,097 heart attacks will be avoided through the implementation of EPA’s clean air rules. In his adopted home state of Pennsylvania, the numbers are even more staggering, with 2,510 pollution-related deaths, 1,016 hospital admissions and 2,298 heart attacks being avoided.
Bettis was diagnosed with asthma at 15, and has struggled with it ever since, including suffering from a traumatic life-threatening attack during a nationally televised game in 1997. He was an active advocate for asthma awareness during his playing career and continues to speak out about the issue. In particular, he has focused on helping children who have asthma learn to cope with it.
Dirty air leads to severe medical issues, including hundreds of premature deaths annually caused by heart, respiratory and lung problems. For those with asthma and other respiratory problems—who already experience breathing difficulty—high ozone days can lead to further respiratory distress, and even hospitalization. On ozone action days the air can irritate the respiratory systems, causing symptoms such as coughing, throat irritation, and chest tightness. Lung function is reduced, air intake can feel strained, and breathing, especially outside, can become shallow, rapid and uncomfortable.
Despite the significant progress that has been made in reducing air emissions in the last 20 years, the American Lung Association says more than 175 million people—or nearly six out of 10 Americans—live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution.
“We’re thrilled and honored that Jerome Bettis has agreed to join with the Clean Air Council to advocate for the timely implementation of the Utility MACT,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Esq. of the Clean Air Council. “As an outspoken advocate for asthma awareness, he recognizes that this issue is important beyond the beltway—it is a living room issue that will benefit everyone, especially asthmatics.”
“My goal is for the members of Congress we meet with to understand just how important these rules are to people’s health, and that they need to be implemented as soon as possible,” concluded Bettis.
Bettis was joined by Feeney and Dr. Sue Tierney, managing principal at the Analysis Group and former assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Energy, at a press conference.
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Clean Air Council is a member-supported, nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone's right to breathe clean air. The Council works through public education, community advocacy, and government oversight to ensure enforcement of environmental laws.
The Jerome Bettis “Bus Stops Here” Foundation is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization whose mission, is to improve the overall quality of life for troubled and underprivileged children by offering the opportunities to help them succeed in life. The Foundation believes that the first step towards self-sufficiency must consist of a strong moral foundation. On this foundation, self-esteem, responsibility, education and ultimately, employability are built. The Foundation’s contribution to youth consists primarily of providing a climate where they feel wanted and accepted by peers and adults and where they are assisted in acquiring and applying the skills related to meeting their goals. Through the hard work of the Foundation, we are presenting possibilities and creating opportunities. We are trying to change old perceptions to create a “right here, right now attitude”.