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Masheka A., VA

I’ve always had allergies and been sensitive to air quality. Before I got married, I lived outside of Baltimore and worked in the city. I could definitely feel the change in how my lungs felt the closer I got to the urban core where there was a lot of pollution from industry and manufacturing.

Now that I'm married and my husband is in the Air Force, we've moved frequently around the country. Similar to my experience in Baltimore, I noticed that every time we moved closer to a more congested part of the country with more manufacturing or traffic, my allergies would get worse. We currently live in Northern Virginia near Washington D.C., which has a reputation for frequent ozone action days when smog levels are high, and the air is deemed to be a potential health hazard for sensitive populations.

When we first moved to this area, my two children, who are ages two and three, started to get sick a lot. At first, I thought it was just the transition to a new environment, but I noticed that my friends' children were also constantly sick. Many of their kids are also struggling with asthma and allergies.

I'm part of a large military family community, and it seems that we're always running to the pharmacy to get medication for our children's colds and chest congestion. When children are sick, it impacts the entire family. A child too sick to go to daycare or school means the parent must to take time off work, which can be a problem when your job is counting on you to be there. For school-age children, chronic illness means missing school and risking falling behind in schoolwork.

I studied environmental science and women's health and wellness in school and consider myself a community health advocate. That's why I am lending my voice and support to our local chapter of the American Lung Association. I want to help other families understand the connection between the environment, air quality and health. As women, we play an important role in helping our families stay healthy, which includes knowing whether our children will have safe, clean air to breathe.

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