Vacaville girl testifies at EPA gathering

Vacaville, CA (July 20, 2012)

A 10-year-old Vacaville girl traveled to Sacramento Thursday morning and gave the folks at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a piece of her mind.

Pint-sized Jaxin Woodward was among a contingent gathered to push for stronger limits on deadly airborne particle pollution known as "soot" or PM2.5.

Current standards, according to the American Lung Association, fail to protect the health of millions of Americans, causing thousands of asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, lung cancers and premature deaths every year.

Jaxin was among those to speak as she is a youth ambassador for the Lung Association.

Addressing EPA officials, Jaxin revealed that she suffers from asthma and explained her stance on the need for tougher standards.

"Having cleaner air is important to me because it lowers the chances of my asthma being triggered. I take Flovent daily to control my asthma symptoms, but I don't let these symptoms stop me from playing outdoors or competing nationally in track and field and cross country," she told the officials.

The fifth-grader's goal is to compete in both sports through college. This summer, she plans to snag two national AAU Junior Olympic medals in the 800m and 1500m runs from Texas.

"To accomplish this I must follow my asthma treatment plan, which my asthma nurse has written for my safety," she said. "This plan is usually updated yearly, but because of my competition level and travel, I see my nurse every four to six months or before I leave the state. I also have to use Advair, which is a combination of Flovent and Albuterol, when traveling to different climates because of humidity or air pollutants.

"Although I take my medications and follow my treatment plan, I still worry about air pollution caused by smoke and car exhaust because it triggers my asthma symptoms. When I smell these air pollutants, I quickly cover my mouth and nose with my hand, shirt or cloth because my nose starts to sting and my breathing quickly changes so I begin to take short breaths so that I don't deeply inhale these pollutants. This means that getting a full breath of air, clean air, is really hard for me. It also usually means my mom is going to give me an Albuterol treatment using the nebulizer. I would like to continue playing outdoors and competing at a national level ... Having cleaner air will help me to achieve my goals. Thank you."

Thursday's hearing was one of two held to gather input on new proposed health standards for soot. The EPA is gathering input on new proposed health standards. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review the standards every five years to incorporate the most current science to determine whether the standards sufficiently protect public health.

Particle pollution is comprised of soot, metals, acid, dirt, pollen, and other elements that can be inhaled and become lodged deeply in one's lungs. Released by sources such as diesel vehicles and equipment, factories, and wood burning stoves, the particles are small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs and into the bloodstream, making soot one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution.