By the time I was a teen, my childhood asthma and allergies had lessened significantly and I was very happy to no longer be considered an “asthmatic.” Unfortunately, that status has changed. Now, decades later, my asthma is back and it’s worse than ever.
I live outside Boston. During my daily commute, I frequently sit in rush-hour traffic jams. Breathing in environmental toxins from car and truck exhaust makes me feel physically sick. It irritates my lungs and aggravates my asthma symptoms. By the time I get to work in the morning – or home after a long day at the office, I can feel the difference in my lung function, and it's not good.
I am grateful that the Environmental Protection Agency is working hard to implement Tier 3 regulations to clean up tailpipe exhaust and gasoline fumes. It's just not acceptable to put the health of millions of Americans at risk from highway pollution. But we must do more to improve our air quality.
The community where I live is not far from Brayton Point, one of Massachusetts' last remaining coal-fired power plants. While this plant is scheduled to retire in 2017, I still worry about the impact on my lungs from the high levels of carbon pollution the plant will continue to belch out for the next several years.
Even after the plant retires we are still at risk from air pollution that blows into our part of the country from other states. New England is called the tailpipe of the nation for a reason. The day-to-day exposure to toxins from both carbon pollution and traffic exhaust leaves me tired, short of breath, wheezing and at risk for severe asthma attacks.
It's time for everyone to stand up and support the Clean Air Act and demand safeguards to protect the air we breathe. Clean air policies are not only important to people like myself with lung disease, they're also vital for those for whom a diagnosis might be just around the corner.