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Dawn P., PA

In early March of this year, Dawn, 43, received sobering news that her mother Barbara was diagnosed with lung cancer. Only eleven days later, she made the decision to sign up for the American Lung Association's May ‘Fight for Air' Walk in Philadelphia. "I knew I needed and wanted to do something," she said. "It helped me process my mom's diagnosis."

I am a respiratory therapist who works day in and day out with patients who have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other lung diseases. I help them manage their health conditions and the challenges that arise and do all I can as a medical professional in that capacity. But it is heartbreaking to watch them struggle for a breath, because while I can provide treatment, what I cannot do is control the quality of the air to which they are exposed.

Poor air quality and pollution can contribute to and exacerbate lung diseases, including asthma, COPD and lung cancer.  People who are already compromised by lung disease are especially vulnerable to air pollution as are babies, children and the elderly.  One of the biggest sources of pollution that impacts our health and air quality is that from cars, light trucks and SUVs. These sources contribute to smog and soot pollution that can trigger asthma attacks, harm heart and lung health, and worsen existing conditions like COPD. Smog and soot pollution can even lead to early death.

As someone who has suffered the loss of two loved ones, my mother and boyfriend, to lung cancer, I am acutely aware of the need to reduce our risk to cancer causing toxic emissions. Strong Cleaner Gasoline and Vehicle Standards proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will help reduce smog and soot pollution and also help reduce the pollutants caused by using gasoline in vehicles; some of which have been linked to cancer.

Cleaning up gasoline and life-threatening tailpipe pollution can save thousands of lives each year, and ease the burden millions of Americans face every day because of unhealthy air. I urge EPA and our legislators to improve our air quality and help us all- especially my patients- breathe easier. 

First Published: April 24, 2013

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