I know firsthand the frightening experience of not being able to breathe during an asthma attack. The last time it happened, I actually thought I was going to die.
As a nurse who also suffers with asthma, I am acutely aware of the impact air pollution has on respiratory health. Anyone suffering from lung disease is at greater risk of severe health complications when exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution. I personally experienced it when I visited China in the year 2000 with a group of school nurses, when we discovered there are no clean air standards and air pollution is very bad. On that trip I ended up with a respiratory infection, which worsened the severity and amount of my asthma attacks. I am so grateful that we have higher clean air standards in the United States, or I would be suffering from respiratory consequences all the time.
My father’s death from lung cancer and my grandmother's emphysema drew me to vigorously work on preventable pulmonary health issues. Both of my parents smoked, and we got them to quit when we were young, because it was bothering everyone in the house too much. Back then, we did not know it was harmful to smoke indoors, or was a trigger for asthma or other respiratory illnesses. In fact, during that time, I suffered from bronchitis many times as a child, before learning as an adult that I actually had asthma.
Today, we do know that air pollution does impact the health of people exposed to unsafe levels, and we can do something about it by fighting against attempts to block, weaken or delay implementations of the Clean Air Act, which safeguards public health from the dangers of air pollution sources. Everyone has the right to healthy air, especially our most vulnerable.