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Orlan H

Leading up to my double lung transplant, my doctor urged me to walk to stay healthy. I was a study in slow motion. It took me a full year of walking the corridors of my local mall to find someone whose gait was slower than mine.

I’m now working on my 7th year with my new lungs and a new lease on life. My appreciation and concern for healthy air has taken on a new meaning during this time, which is why I have become a vocal advocate for the Clean Air Act.

Growing up in the state of Washington, I developed a great love for the outdoors. I have many happy memories exploring the Rockies—camping, hiking and mountain climbing. Because of the poor air quality where I live, I’m forced to spend much of my time indoors. Needless to say, this has been quite an adjustment for me.

My new lungs require great care. I often must wear a mask to protect myself from dirty air making exercising or spending any amount of time outdoors a near impossibility. Pollution knows no boundaries and impacts those even great distances from the source. Dirty air blowing in from our neighboring state of Illinois has long been a problem for our state.

That is why healthy air protections like the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are so necessary for people like me including those in the COPD support group I lead. Healthy air has a dramatic impact on our quality of life and can rob us of our ability to spend time with friends and family.

Our lungs are the only organ that is constantly exposed to the environment and there is only so much we as individuals can do to protect ourselves. No one can live 100 percent of the time indoors. That is why we need strong healthy air protections so that the simple act of breathing doesn’t worsen our health.

First published: January 15, 2019

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