Molly Rauch from USA
I am the mom of three teenagers in Washington DC. I had asthma as a child, but by the time I became a mom, I hadn’t had any symptoms for many years. When I moved to DC as an adult, I started having breathing problems again. I realized that my breathing was most labored on bad air days. Now I am careful to avoid spending time outside when there are air quality alerts.
DC has a long history of air pollution problems. Due to prevailing weather patterns here, we get a lot of the air pollution drifting in from other states. My children have grown up breathing polluted air. Luckily, they don’t have major health issues, but I know that even low levels of air pollution can harm their health over time. I get frustrated because this pollution is harmful, and it’s preventable, and yet our kids still have to breathe it. It shouldn’t have to be my job to keep track of air quality monitors and follow air quality alerts.
DC’s biggest air pollution problem is smog, or ground level ozone. Smog forms when certain chemicals react with sunlight and heat in the atmosphere. Because heat makes smog worse, this is a climate change problem. As climate change worsens, smog levels will go up in US cities and around the world. We are already seeing this happen in some parts of the US.
The latest IPCC report has affirmed that we are living in an unequivocal climate crisis. But we don’t need a UN report to tell us what so many of us are experiencing in our own communities: searing heat waves, staggering wildfires, and terrible floods, unprecedented rainfall, choking drought.
My teenage son is an athlete who trains outside in the summer. His football team practices outside in the heat. We have had several heat emergency days, including code orange air days for ozone. A code orange day means that the air is dangerous to breathe for sensitive populations. Who is sensitive? Children, anyone who works outside, athletes, pregnant women, people with asthma, people who have had COVID, anyone with heart disease or diabetes or obesity or any other underlying condition. On code orange air days, we all have someone we love for whom the air is dangerous to breathe.
Here in DC, we have a historical average of 11 dangerously hot days each year. In the 2020s, we are projected to have 18 each year. By the 2050s, heat emergencies in DC are projected to increase to 30-45 days. This is hard on my son’s body, and it will harm the health of athletes like him in the future.
My three children are the reason I fight for clean air, and they are the reason I work for Moms Clean Air Force.