A Free-Market Energy Blog

Asthma Reduction: The Joker Card of EPA’s CO2 Power Grab (Part 2)

By James Rust -- July 10, 2014

“Slight increases [in CO2] can have no effect on causing asthma or stimulating its attacks…. It may be that EPA’s calling ‘wolf’ causes parents to keep their children inside homes where actual air pollution is more severe. EPA should go back to the drawing board and work from the science out rather than from the agenda in.”

Along with the postmodernistic claims of averting catastrophic climate events, the Obama Administration introduced its proposed carbon pollution standards with a hearty, but bogus, claim of public-health benefits.

The Guardian (May 31) carried an article, “Obama heralds health benefits of climate plan to cut power plant emissions,” which described a presentation President Obama made–with white-robed individuals in the background–in an asthma ward at the Children’s National Medical Centre in Washington, DC. The President said, “just in the first year the plan would reduce asthma attacks by 100,000 and heart attacks by 2100.”

Ditto on June 2 when EPA Administrator Gina McCarty announced EPA’s Carbon Pollution Plan would reduces illnesses like asthma by reducing what she called carbon pollution. “The first year that these standards go into effect, we’ll avoid up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks–and those numbers go up from there,” she claimed.

A seven-page report from The White House, “The Health Impacts of Climate Change On Americans,” listed their claims of health problems from global warming.

Buyer beware.

Asthmatic Understanding

A devastating July 11, 2011, article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by University of Georgia Emeritus Professor R. Harold Brown, “Politics of asthma have outrun the science of the condition frontally challenges, if not destroys, arguments by the EPA power plant emissions cause asthma. “No one really knows what causes asthma,” he wrote.

What we do know is asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways.  The causes of asthma symptoms can vary for different people.  Still, one thing is consistent with asthma: when airways come into contact with an asthma trigger, the airways become inflamed, narrow, and fill with mucus.

Allergies with asthma are common problem. Eighty percent of people with asthma have allergies to airborne substances such as tree, grass, and weed pollens, mold, animal dander, dust mites, and cockroach particles.

In one study, children who had high levels of cockroach droppings in their homes were four times more likely to have childhood asthma than children whose homes had low levels.  Asthma exacerbation after dust exposure is usually due to dust mite allergy.

EPA claims ozone causes asthma; but Prof. Brown cites studies show a negative correlation of asthma attacks with peak eight-hour ozone concentrations. Air pollution would be thought to be worse in urban areas; but asthma rates are as high in rural areas as urban areas.

A 2004 global report on asthma cited asthma incidences among adults as 10.9 percent in the U. S., 2.1 percent in China, and 2.2 percent in Russia; all countries with far more polluted air than the U. S. A 2001-2004 CDC study reported 14.6 percent of U. S. born women claimed they had asthma, 4 percent of Mexican born women, and 6.8 percent for immigrants born elsewhere. Additional studies, most in Europe, show children born on farms with a lot of livestock contact are less likely to have asthma.

To add more confusion to the causes of asthma is a new study reported June 6, 2014 in Health Daily News: “Too-Clean Homes May Encourage Child Allergies, Asthma:  Study.” It reported that children from dirty homes were less likely to have wheezing coughing by age three.  The study is still in infancy.

An article by Brian Palmer titled “How Dangerous Is Asthma?” shows in the U. S. you are more likely to die from drowning than asthma.  Deaths due to asthma have fallen from 2 per 100,000 in 1998 to 1 per 100,000 in 2010.

Air pollution not correlated with asthma hospitalizations,” reported by a new JunkScience.com study.  Soot and smog were not correlated with emergency admissions for asthma at a large Los Angeles hospital over the two-year period 2010-11.  Los Angeles is one of the most polluted areas in the United States.

Ozone and Asthma: Possible Linkage (and EPA Culpability)

There is some thought increasing ozone in the atmosphere stimulates asthma attacks. Weather alerts given in cities about impending bad air is due to ozone increases caused by automobiles.  One source of atmospheric ozone is due to ethanol being mixed with gasoline as a renewable fuel.

A December 14, 2009, report by Stanford University researchers “Ethanol results in higher ozone concentrations than gasoline” shows vehicles running on ethanol generate higher concentrations of ozone than those using gasoline, especially in the winter. This could create new health concerns in areas where ozone hasn’t been a significant problem before.

Further evidence of ethanol causing ozone is shown by studies in Sao Paulo, Brazil “Study Links Ethanol To Higher Air Pollution.  The studies showed higher ozone levels during periods of greater ethanol use due to its lower prices.

This is an example where the EPA attacks a non-problem, carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, and creates a real problem by pushing use of ethanol as a mix with gasoline. [1]


Carbon dioxide is a trace gas (0.04 percent) in our atmosphere. Slight increases can have no effect on causing asthma or stimulating its attacks. It may be that EPA’s calling “wolf” for years on power plant pollution causes parents to keep their children inside homes where actual air pollution is more severe. EPA should go back to the drawing board and work from the science out rather than from the agenda in.


[1] An analogous situation occurred in 2011 when the EPA attacked mercury from effluents of coal-and oil-burning power plants with its Mercury and Toxic Substance (MATS) Rule and supervised elimination of incandescent light bulbs and replacement with mercury-containing compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. A May 3, 2011, paper by James H. Rust “Do New EPA Regulations on Power Plant Mercury Effluents Make Sense” shows mercury emissions from power plants are negligible compared to natural mercury emissions; while mercury concentrations in small areas in homes from CFL breakage posed potential severe environmental hazards.


James H. Rust is a professor of nuclear engineering and policy advisor The Heartland Institute. This is the second of a three-part review of the Obama Administration’s June 2, 2014, proposed power plant rule. Part III is tomorrow.


  1. FredB  

    If I recall correctly, normal respiration has people breathing out ~4000 PPM CO2 which overwhelms any possible effect of 400 PPM in the atmosphere.


  2. Charles Battig,M.D.  

    In my opinion, this article provides an accurate example of how winning the factual scientific argument is a necessary, but inadequate, means of winning in the political/emotional arena, and it is the politicians who get to enact the laws.

    This link: http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2014/July/Worried-Moms-Global-Warming-Endangers-Our-Kids/

    shows the real world political/emotional advantage that a group of moms and their cute children have over science-based arguments in that arena.

    Presentations to overcome such emotional arguments must be emotional in nature, while conveying factual science. None of the politicians in that crowd are going to be as interested in RR and HR analyses as much as they are wanting to be seen responding to “protecting the children.”

    I have seen this happen repeatedly at local Board of Supervisor meetings. Their eyes will glaze over during a science based rebuttal to some such issue, but their faces light up with delight when a school child makes a pitch for solar power or renewables.


  3. Ray  

    Remember when the anti smoking zealots claimed tobacco smoke caused asthma? Well, the smoking rate has decreased for the past 20 years and the asthma rate has increased. Obviously, tobacco smoke prevents or cures asthma


  4. Ronald Walter  

    Every time you take a breath of air you release some CO2. There really needs to be an ‘individual mandate’, mandate that each breath of air from the atmosphere that a human breathes be a taxable entity, an amount that will pay for the administration of CO2 emissions and to require the funding of the consequent ‘free’ market that will follow, along with the plethora of mandates and congressional orders and executive orders that never end ad nauseam, is nothing more than another money game at the expense of humanity, in very real monetary terms, and is a crime against humanity.

    Let’s hope it continues.


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