Elizabeth Hauptman from USA

My son has asthma, and his disease is made worse by air pollution. In the summertime, we need to watch our weather app to see if it’s safe for our son to play outdoors. On hot days, when the air quality is terrible, I know that he’s going to have a tough day. As a mother who has seen the fear in her son's face as his chest tightens and he gasps to breathe, we must do more to protect him and children who suffer from this chronic illness.

Far too many times, I have had the experience of seeing my child gasp for air in the throes of an asthma attack. My son developed asthma at age three. During his attacks, he fights for every breath, a sign that his lungs are working too hard, too inefficiently, to support his heart and other vital organs. Several times we have landed in the emergency room. Far too often I have had to rush my son home after a soccer game or swimming on hot summer days to use his nebulizer and get his asthma under control. As I parent, I want to do whatever I can to help ease my son’s disease.

We live in Michigan, which has some of the worst rates of asthma in the country, according to the American Lung Association. Childhood asthma rates are significantly higher for children of color. Latino children are twice as likely to die from asthma, and Black children are 10 times more likely to die from asthma than white, non-Hispanic kids. These statistics make it abundantly clear that clean air is an environmental and social justice issue.

I regularly monitor the air quality index in Livingston County. When pollution levels get too high, I need to keep my son inside to avoid exposure. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, I am making immediate life and death decisions on whether or not we go outside.

Because of my son and the over 166,000 children in Michigan who suffer from asthma, we need more protective air quality standards to protect our children from air pollution. Pollution harms all of us, but it disproportionately impacts children. Kids are smaller, living closer to the ground than the rest of us, standing just about tailpipe high, where concentrations of pollution from cars, trucks, and buses is coming directly at them. Children’s still developing heart and lungs are being exposed to dirty exhaust from vehicles that spew carcinogenic poisons in the air. This tailpipe pollution causes poor air quality that can exacerbate asthma, causing more asthma attacks, resulting in millions of missed school days, games and outdoor family events for kids across the country.

I’m raising my voice with Moms Clean Air Force on behalf of the six million children in the U.S. with asthma. All of us with lung problems are more vulnerable to health impacts of air pollution.

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