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Ray Z

It is very discouraging to think we have to stand up for our right to breathe healthy air. I find it hard to understand why some lawmakers in our federal government would want to roll back clean air standards and put public health at risk.

I grew up in Chicago in the 1970s when big cities across the country were plagued with dirty air and smog. We used to joke that breathing the air in Chicago was equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Now I know that is no joking matter. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine the amount of toxins people living there had to breathe on a daily basis.

I live in Pittsburgh now, not far from the mill town of Donora, where a killer smog in the 1940s was so severe that 20 people died. That’s a little known historical fact that might surprise a lot of people. Thankfully, Pittsburgh air is much better these days, but there are still vestiges from the days of heavy pollution. I really notice the difference when my sons and I go camping deep in the woods of West Virginia, where the air is extremely fresh and clean. I can breathe more deeply there. My lungs seem to clear up and I feel better.

Pollutants in the air can come from many sources, from the coal generating power plant that operates not too far from my community, to the exhaust from cars on the roads near my house, and the many chemicals in everyday products we use. I am concerned not only about my own health but also for my children and my grandchildren. Rather than reducing air quality standards, I would like to see even stronger protections in place.

First published: February 6, 2019

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