California Mom Channels Heartbreak into Fight Against Air Pollution

I’m not a scientist or a doctor; by all accounts I’m an ordinary mom who just happens to be on a mission to make life better for kids with asthma. That’s how I found myself testifying before a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing in California earlier this summer. I’m a mother who lost a beautiful, vibrant daughter to an asthma attack. That horrible loss led me to speak out in support of our government setting the most protective standards for one of the deadliest forms of air pollution—particulate matter, better known as soot.

In short, soot is the thick grey cloud of smoke that pours out of tailpipes and smokestacks that makes it difficult for people with and without asthma to breathe. It can trigger severe asthma attacks and even place our children’s lives at risk. Despite numerous emergency room visits over the years as the result of my daughter Steph’s severe breathing problems, nothing could have prepared my husband and me for the day when an asthma attack took her life when she was just 15-years-old.

The heartache I’ve felt since then is why I want other parents to know how deadly, serious this disease can be and also to be aware that even the most severe symptoms can be managed with proper treatment. The American Lung Association’s website offers a wealth of asthma management information that just might improve your life.

Yet, the one piece of the asthma puzzle we cannot control is air pollution. Simply breathing dirty air can be deadly for people with asthma. Because no one should have to experience the pain my family has endured, it is time we get tough on soot and other forms of air pollution.

We’re right now in the midst of a national debate over how much soot is safe in the air we breathe. Scientists have confirmed that those of us with asthma and other serious lung diseases have trouble breathing soot at levels which EPA presently classifies as safe. The benefits of tightening the soot standard are huge. If the EPA set the standards at the levels recommended by the American Lung Association and its counterparts in the public health community, as many as 35,700 lives could be saved each year. As a nation, we could prevent 1.4 million asthma attacks, as well as 23,290 visits to the hospital and emergency room each and every year. I support preventing asthma attacks provoked by air pollution, and I told EPA so in a recent hearing in California.

As much sense as it makes to move ahead with a more protective soot standard, the process very much relies on strong public support. The EPA needs to hear from parents, people with lung disease and those who want future generations to not know the pain and suffering of air pollution caused health ailments. Unless we join together and make our voices heard, the current, outdated soot standard will remain a threat to children’s health and all who suffer from lung disease.

The Lung Association has made it easy to speak up for this needed healthy air protection. Simply click here and enter your name and address; it’s really just that easy and will make a world of difference. Your support also honors my daughter’s memory while working to give another child with asthma a fighting chance at the life they deserve.

*This blog post may be republished for noncommercial use provided the following source credit is cited: Lydia Rojas, American Lung Association Healthy Air Campaign Volunteer