Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Tennessee: Nashville Resident Shares Story About Living with Asthma and Bad Air Quality

New campaign calls on Tennessee residents to take action against air pollution

A new initiative launched today, called Stand Up For Clean Air, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Clean Air Act and asks Tennessee residents to pledge to take action on air pollution. The American Lung Association’s new effort also encourages everyone to share why clean air matters to them through the #MyCleanAirStory social media campaign.

This campaign will also help raise awareness about the health impacts of air pollution faced by Tennessee residents, such as Becki Baker, who has lived with asthma her entire life.

“I lived in Memphis most of my life before I moved to Nashville. For me, air quality is very personal.  All my growing up years, my family always had to prepare for times when air quality would be bad because I could have an asthma attack. Much of the spring or fall because of all the pollen or when air quality in general would be bad I would have to stay inside,” said Baker. “Memphis had lots of industry downtown and there was car pollution and factories, so when the wind would shift, I would wheeze. When the weather would change, I felt like there was an elephant sitting on my chest. I still, today, must be very alert to these same triggers because they affect my breathing.”

Everyone is encouraged to share their personal experiences and concerns with air pollution on social media with a selfie, photo or video with the #MyCleanAirStory hashtag. Whether you love to bike or run, live near a power plant or highway, or your child experiences asthma symptoms on bad air quality days – we all have reasons why we want and need clean air.

“Air is the one commodity we all share, so the way I see it, controlling the quality of that air is everyone’s responsibility. Our bodies are not built to deal with the pollutants over a long period,” said Baker. “Asthma has always been something that is a normal for me, so I am very protective of my environment. I don’t go places that allow smoking. I don’t go places where I know there are bad air spaces, because in a split second, it will feel like someone is squeezing the bottom of my lungs and taking my air.”

“Air pollution is not just an issue for those with underlying health issues like asthma, breathing air pollution is harmful for everyone. But some groups do face an even higher risk – including pregnant women, babies, children, teens, older adults and many communities of color,” said Gail Frost, executive director for the Lung Association. “Through Stand Up For Clean Air, we hope to elevate conversations around the health impacts of air pollution and motivate people to take action.”

The Clean Air Act, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is responsible for reducing air pollution in much of the nation and saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year. Despite this public health success, increased temperatures pose new challenges to protecting the nation’s air quality because it makes air pollution worse, placing the health of Tennesseans at risk. In fact, in the 2020 State of the Air Report, Nashville ozone pollution got worse as compared to previous years.

Increased temperatures are worsening our air quality through increased levels of wildfire smoke, increased formation of ozone pollution, and more extreme storms and frequent flooding, which leave behind mold, polluted floodwater residue and other damage, exposing people to indoor air pollution as they clean up and repair homes. Many sources of pollution – power plants, oil and gas operations, and cars and trucks – also produce air pollution that is directly harmful to lung health.

Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, and can cause coughing and wheezing, heart attacks and stroke, developmental and reproductive harm, and lung cancer. Air pollution can even be deadly.

“Most Americans support more clean air protections, but not all Americans know what action they can take,” Frost said. “From urging your elected officials to take action on the federal level to helping to reduce air pollution in your community, actions large and small can add up to make a significant impact.”

Learn more about air pollution and lung health, as well as simple steps to make a difference, and critical opportunities to hold leaders accountable at

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
[email protected]

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