From McClatchy Newspapers:

Summer air pollution could trigger more asthma attacks for children who live in industrial cities, and the Environmental Protection Agency would like stricter rules to cut smog.

Congress is split on the agency’s proposal, however, with some Republicans saying the EPA’s regulatory agenda could cost businesses as well as drive up energy expenses for families. Clean air advocates counter that low standards for pollution cost families by endangering children’s health.

The EPA’s proposed air-pollution standards are “long overdue,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said Wednesday at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s clean air subcommittee. He pointed to his own state, where there are nearly 25,000 children with asthma in a state of just 1 million people. Someone needs to speak for the children, Whitehouse said.

“These children are frankly not heard, and the cost to them is not heard,” he said. “The polluting industries are heard loud and clear.”

The EPA is expected to release proposed new ozone-pollution regulations in July. Also in July, the agency is scheduled to establish greenhouse-gas standards for new and updated power plants. It’s scheduled to propose standards for refineries in December.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental advocacy group, warned last week that bad air days from ground-level ozone pollution will get worse in much of the U.S. as a result of climate change unless pollution is reduced.

Health specialists who spoke at Wednesday’s hearing said they didn’t know what caused asthma, which sometimes is inherited, but that air toxins did trigger attacks.

Several health experts testified that asthma is extremely hazardous to children, especially those younger than 5. Ground-level ozone, the main component in smog, causes burning in the eyes and throat, shortness of breath and coughing, as well as asthma attacks and other lung problems. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable.

“Asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood and is responsible for a large amount of health care expenditures and lost school days,” testified James Ginda, a respiratory therapist from Rhode Island.