Last week, Albert Rizzo, MD, chief of the pulmonary and critical care medicine section at Christiana Care Health Systems in Delaware and board member of the American Lung Association (ALA), testified on behalf of the association before the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in support of S. 2995 The Clean Air Act Amendments of 2010.

The bipartisan legislation would strengthen the Clean Air Act by cleaning up sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury from power plants. The bill, introduced last month by Tom Carper (D-Del), chair of the Senate Clean Air Subcommittee, and cosponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn), Susan Collins (R-Me), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and nine others, would cut sulfur dioxide emissions 80% by 2018, nitrogen oxide emissions 53% by 2015, and mercury emissions at least 90% by 2015.

The ALA supports the bill because it strengthens the ability to get additional pollution reductions without imposing weakening changes to the current law. It cautions, however, that it will not support any changes that would undermine the enforcement of the New Source Review program or other provisions of the Clean Air Act.

“This important legislation will provide significant public health benefits that will lead to [fewer] asthma attacks, emergency room visits, and even fewer premature deaths,” said Rizzo. “Congress needs to move forward and pass the Carper-Alexander bill now because it provides urgently needed health and environmental benefits. Delays have real and dramatic costs—a tragic human toll—paid in thousands of lives lost each year.”

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the bill could prevent between 12,000 and 30,000 premature deaths each year.