Read the stories
Kamila Kadzidlowska from Poland
I live in country, where words “family, children, life and sovereignty” are on the lips on every concerned Mrs. Politicians. Since you become parent here, you realize how much these words really mean to those, who decide about our future.
Leo, my first son was born over 12 years ago as a healthy and strong kid. Unfortunately it didn’t last long. From his first months the problem upper respiratory tract infections appeared and was constantly recurring. I cannot count how many times per month we went to the doctors and hospitals, how many strong drugs and antibiotics he had taken at such a young age, and how much we have paid for this - since our public health system is not efficient enough to treat all the little patients who face such problems.
Two years later, Julian, our second son was born – healthy and strong at the beginning, as the first one. Unfortunately, just a few hours after his birth, he developed a very severe skin allergy. With every week his condition was worsening. Instead of gaining on weight, he was losing, he wasn’t able to digest properly, nor sleep, or even keep his little palms open. When he was 3 month old, neurologists in one private clinic misdiagnosed him as child with CMG – cytomegalic intra uterus virus infection. We had three months of confusion - with no improvements in symptom, and I was also getting sicker with cold like symptoms.
A Doctor discreetly told me to stop breastfeeding my son. Her hypothesis was that I am suffering from a chronic infection of the respiratory system, against which the very sensitive digestive and nervous systems of my child are defending themselves by giving symptoms almost identical to congenital CMV.
I can’t describe our happiness when it turned out, that our son is not terminally handicapped. Our anger was also no less at the doctors and nurses, who haven’t had noticed all that time, that these problems of our newborn could have been related with his breastfeeding mom condition and - as it turned out later - with the monstrous smog season, at the beginning of which Julian was born.
As “just parents” we had no clue about it as well, when Jeremi, our 3rd son was born. And when he also started to suffer from the upper respiratory tract infections, we just looked for the cause in us - parents who seem to be taking insufficient care of their children.
The turning point came when in the winter of 2017, despite the fact that all our children had cold, we decided to go on a long-planned family trip, far away from Poland. Our surprise was when they suddenly recovered, just after 3 days in completely different region of the world.
Few days after returning to Poland, our kids began to fall ill again…
- Don’t you see a correlation between infections and the quality of the air here in Poland? – I asked the Pediatrist that was about to prescribe them another medicaments. Indeed, she admitted adding, that Ministry of Health never really paid attention on this problem. Perhaps because it would have to lead to the real revolution in our energy sector and cause a break down in the pharmacy industry…
Since then always from September till April, in the smog season here in Warsaw, my children take an antihistamine drugs, which help them survive this period. This morning, my 5 years old son woke up with runny nose. No wonder. The temperatures here lowered lately and people living in our area started to heat their houses by burning coal. Jeremy's respiratory system responded. The list of diseases we are all exposed here breathing in cancer-causing air for more than half the year of is endless. The social costs are counted in millions.
In last years the awareness of the impact of pollution on the condition of Polish citizens and health services has increased significantly. Doctors are upgrading their knowledge and they try to inform citizens, but what choice do we have living here?
In 2018, during the COP24 hosted in Poland, we could hear our president saying proudly, that ,we will never give up coal, as it is our treasure, and guarantee of national sovereignty.
This state head declaration sounded terrifying to me. I know that as long as policy makers who profit from burning fossil fuels remain in power, I cannot delude myself that Poland is a safe country for my children and their generation, whatever our efforts as parents.
Unfortunately, such a greedy and short-sighted policy that neglects the health and environmental costs of burning fossil fuels is destructive not only for the conditions of polish families. It also exacerbates climate change, which already threatens the lives and health of children in vulnerable countries all over the world.
At the end on this story I would like to remind my fellow citizens from Poland that we all subsidize coal industry from our taxes. No-one will care about the health and future of our children if we won’t. The point is to deal not just with the symptoms, but to finally treat causes.
Nina Subramani from India
One of the most defining moments of my life was when my 6-year-old came home from school. “Amma, we learnt about global warming”. Wow, I thought, turning to her with a big smile thinking this would be the beginning of her life as an ecowarrior, earth-crusader, green-brigadier or the countless other things we call each other and our children for simply doing the right and sensible thing.
To my dismay, however, she looked frightened and with her upper lip wobbling said… “if global warming comes and the earth explodes, I want to die before you.” Her fear sliced through me, and eight years later as I write this, I can still feel the pain just as keenly. All my life, like thousands of others, I have done the ‘’right thing” — whether it’s not buying fast food, takeaways, plastic toys, a car, segregating my garbage, refusing my daughter many times things she craves because “it’s not good for the planet”— still, there seems to be not even a glimpse of a better future.
Could it be because we’re doing it all wrong? Holding ourselves accountable when industries and government get away with zero accountability? TPP plants all over India have created dystopian landscapes — of white ash on land where nothing can grow anymore. Winds scatter the ash far and beyond. Soiling the water. Clogging the air. Still, alternate energy is a distant dream. The appetite for wider roads can never be satiated — our roads are still congested despite having sacrificed thousands of homes and farmlands to make them. A robust public transport system is still a pipe dream. Plastic is ever prevalent — in the form of flimsy bags in spite of so much awareness. And however much all of us continue to do the right thing, we cannot win unless industries and the people we vote into power are held accountable.
Why do we demand so much virtue and selflessness from our children when we don’t have the energy to push the people who are meant to serve us? While forests are still giving way to mines, trees still chopped for architectural updates, water bodies still drained for development projects. Let’s never call our children entitled or spoiled again. We’ve stood by and allowed their legacy to burn and now expect them to sacrifice their childhoods and stand on the frontlines. We always say that we’ll stand in front of a bus for our kids, right? Well, that bus is hurling along — at top speed — coming for them. Come, hold my hand. Let’s stand in its path.
Yaritza Perez from USA
I am Yaritza Perez, from Orlando, Florida. As a second-generation Puerto Rican, I get to represent the state of Florida as a field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force. I am a Floridian, a Latina, a United States Marine Corps veteran, and most importantly, a mother.
There are close to 2 million Latinos living within a half mile of existing oil and gas facilities. Due to high levels of poverty, low levels of health insurance, and lack of access to adequate health care, Latinos are disproportionately burdened by the health impacts from methane and other air pollution. Latinos experience over 153,000 asthma attacks and over 112,000 missed school days each year due to oil and gas air pollution. Rates of asthma are often higher in Latino communities. Latinos are three times more likely to be negatively affected by air pollution because of where they live and work. We live in counties that are frequently violating ground-level ozone standards. We are literally living in environments and communities that are toxic and full of contaminants that are harmful to our children’s lungs.
We owe it to our children and to their future to clean up the air. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to our parents and grandparents who sacrificed so much for us to be here. This is a basic human right. I should feel comfortable when stepping outside knowing that the air is clean. Knowing that I sacrificed 12 years of selfless service to this country only to be treated as a second-class citizen will be no more. Latinos have sacrificed our children for generations in honor and service to this country, and we deserve to come back to a healthy clean land. No matter where that land is.
The current climate crisis has caused millions to migrate to the state of Florida to seek refuge and stability. In order to welcome those families, we must provide and implement drastic change now. We have had veterans who have fought wars abroad only to come home and die from a toxic environment and bad health care. Latino children are 40% more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino whites and nearly 10% of Latino children under the age of 18 suffer from chronic respiratory illness.
The time for change is now.
Celerah Hughes from USA
New Mexico is known for its beautiful skies and outdoor spaces, but Albuquerque continues to receive failing ozone grades in the American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” report.
Climate change is greatly impacting New Mexico and the Southwest with drought and longer, more intense wildfire seasons, and increased heat waves that threaten the health of New Mexico families. We have seen rising heat and climate impacts, including wildfires that were causing air pollution from fires over 400 miles away. This summer, the wildfires burning in Arizona put Albuquerque on a public health alert as smoke and particulates traveled hundreds of miles. As a member of Moms Clean Air Force, I have had the opportunity to speak with elected leaders and government agencies about these issues, because we must make them understand the urgency of climate change.
On her first day of summer camp, my eight-year-old daughter suffered from heat stroke as we saw the beginning of a heat wave hitting the Southwest. On the third day, I had to explain that she could not play outside because the air was dirty from smoke and particulate matter caused wildfires in another state. This August, we have had numerous days where Air Quality officials have told us the air outside is unhealthy due to smoke and ozone and our skies are so thick with particulate matter, we cannot see the Sandia Mountains. Our children now have to spend large portions of the summer inside because the air outside is dangerous to breathe.
We have to make a change now, before this becomes the new normal.
Amuche Nnabueze from Nigeria
Amuche – Parents for Future Nigeria.
In the 1970s, when I was growing up in my village in Ukehe, eastern Nigeria, we had asthma related emergency in my family, sometimes the attack came with other related complications like convulsion in infancy and early childhood which could have had very devastating effects on development. This kept me and my family on edge and constantly anxious. This could be attributable to our cooking practices and pollution from firewood. This situation kept my sibling (one out of eight) on asthma drugs such as Ventolin/Albuterol (also known as salbutamol) and inhalers while growing up. Fortunately, we have all grown up and are parents but memories of that trauma still punctuate our lives. With our own children here and constantly exposed to air pollutants and allergic triggers, we are even more anxious.
Earlier this year, precisely in June 2021, I lost one of my friends to respiratory complications having been a known asthmatic. The data for asthma and allergenic sufferers in Nigeria are scary. In recent time and having moved to other cities in Nigeria, I have seen worse pollution with the air quality getting worse, given that there are now more sources of air pollution; like gas flaring, illegal refining of crude, open and uncontrolled waste incineration of municipal solid wastes (MSW).
We see young people and grown ups suffering from allergic reactions and asthmatic attacks. The traumatic experience of sudden onset and attack of asthma can be devastating. In the university medical center where I worked for over 3 years, I witnessed some of the most traumatic asthma attacks, with many needing nebulization and sometimes admission. Given the poor medical infrastructural and insurance settings most of the hospitals and clinics in Nigeria operate on, it is usually a very difficult time for families and friends of sufferers.
Of greater concern is the problem of open waste burning in the streets. Equally of concern is the fact that institutions that are in place and should enforce air quality controls are ill equipped and corrupt. This leaves the enforcement undone since the persons responsible are more concerned to earn their daily living given the extent of poverty and inequality in place in Nigeria.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) air quality in Nigerian cities is generally not safe. My Nigeria has the highest percentage of air pollution death in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cities like Port Harcourt is covered in sooth emanating from gas flaring and other fossil fuel operations in the Niger Delta. According to scholars, Air pollution is a major environmental problem and relates to anthropogenic climate change which is centred on the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Cities such as Lagos, Kano, and Port Harcourt are hotspots of air pollution in Nigeria. Air pollutants emission in Nigeria are majorly from biomass fuel burning from vehicles, landfill gases, domestic cooking stove and industries. Air pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) pose mild to severe respiratory illness particularly in vulnerable persons.
One of our group members in Parents for Future Nigeria is working on improved cooking stove for women to reduce the extent of pollution women and their children are exposed to while carrying out their daily survival needs. If this is solved we will still have the problem from other sources of air pollution. That is why we add our voices and join the campaign raising awareness to call for a stop to air pollution and climate change to ensure a liveable future for our children and children all over the world.
Julie Kimmel from USA
I am the parent of a sensitive and energetic six-year-old daughter. I live with my daughter and husband in Reston, a Northern Virginia suburb of DC. I also grew up here in Reston. I am a project manager for Moms Clean Air Force.
For as long as I can remember, traffic congestion has been a major issue in Northern Virginia, and cars and trucks are certainly our largest source of air pollution.
Climate change is already affecting communities across our state. Over the last decade, we’ve had several severe wind storms—a phenomenon I don’t recall from my childhood here. We’ve also seen multiple so-called 100-year rain storms. And the annual number of days when temperatures soar past 90 degrees is growing.
My daughter just started first grade. The absolute biggest joy of her life is meeting her friends after school outside at our neighborhood playground. They play make believe and build shelters for bugs. They jump rope and throw frisbees. Playing outdoors is so important for children—they learn how to be cooperative, compassionate humans on the playground.
But when temperatures climb past 95 degrees, I have to ask my daughter to stay inside. She plays hard, overheats easily, and I do not want to risk a trip to the emergency room for heat-related illness.
It’s not just me and my kid and my neighbors. Families across the country are losing so much valuable play and school time to extreme storms, extreme heat, and wildfires—thanks to climate change. And this on top of the education crisis we’re facing because of COVID.
I am worried about the impacts of climate change on my daughter’s education, health, and future.
Rishita Mukherji from India
Where I live (Gurugram) the air quality is very bad. The intensive development of apartment buildings in suburban areas without proper public transportation pushes people into cars and reduces green space. Over the last decade we have lost thousands of trees in the name of development.
Recently as more groups join to demand for clean air, the municipal corporation pretends they care, but there is no real action. I became a mom five months ago and air quality has become a reason to stay indoors against our will for most of the winter. If we had a choice we would have liked to move into safer spaces with cleaner air but we cannot afford to move. We have new jobs and COVID times have been difficult too.
Sherebanu Frosh from India
My daughter was 5 when a friend told us to buy air purifiers for our home (in Gurgaon, India). We didn’t know much about the air pollution, except that it was there, and pretty high. This friend, a journalist, had just had her second baby and both children suffered from asthma.
With the air purifier came a monitor, not terribly accurate, which told us the pollution levels in our home. This was the first time pollution was quantified for us. That year, in November, as crop burning season along with firecracker season coincided and all of North India was enveloped in an extensive opaque cloud for a few weeks. We watched the numbers with horror and clustered around the one air purifier, not knowing anything else about how pollution works, only that the foul smelling air exceeded all limits.
Now I know more about air pollution. Everyone is forced to know. We check the AQI and PM2.5 numbers multiple times a day. I know that children growing up in this pollution have black deposits of particulate matter in their lungs - black lungs like smokers when they grow up. Lifelong, irreversible damage that causes dozens of diseases that are well documented.
How can I allow this damage to be done to my children? Which mother would let her child get hurt to this extent? We don’t have a choice but to be environmentalists in India - fighting at individual level with reducing waste, cycling, buying less. Additionally, we are organising to fight at a system level as Warrior Moms.
So much of our mindspace goes in worry, stress and anger about air pollution, so much of our resources are lost to healthcare, lost productivity, disease. Fossil fuels are not worth it. Not by a long margin.
Dr Jasmine Pradissitto from United Kingdom
We can only live for 3 minutes without air.....
As a physicist, I once wrote an essay on the changing climate resulting from our industrial progress, long before it had become so globally devastating. As an academic, I have spoken to 10’s of thousands of students, children, and institutions on the use of STEAM subjects and education to protect the increasingly fragile environment which sustains our very survival. But it was only as an artist and more importantly a mother, that it became so personal and so visceral, that I was compelled to pioneer pollution-absorbing sculptures and public installations. Art that shares the narrative that not only does 1 in 10 humans now need an asthma puffer to take a breath, but also the story of how it affects the smallest of creatures that pollinate the plants that become 1 in 3 mouthfuls of our food.
5 years ago, my now 23-year-old son, had a major asthma attack. We had never experienced that before and sitting in A&E in Lewisham all night watching him struggle on a nebuliser made me think about creating work to share how it feels when an invisible enemy takes hold of all our precious children. The very children inheriting a broken world they did not create.
A year later, I was commissioned by Euston Town and The Mayor of London Fund to create a piece for one of the most polluted roads in the country. There is a reason synchronicity is one of my favourite terms; not long after I met a company making a ceramic, 3 kg of which can clean an average-sized room of nitrogen dioxide (NOx) pollution. NOx is the toxic yellow haze emitted by everything from hobs to vehicles and the thing we see as a layer on city skylines. ‘Breathe’ was recently installed above the Camden People’s Theatre, at a time when Camden now has the densest number of air detectors anywhere in the world. And last year, we installed ‘Flower Girl who will awaken upon the buzzing or the bees’ in the Horniman Museum Gardens to help pollinators find their flowers on the highly toxic South Circular. Only this week I met a grandmother who told me she visits regularly with her granddaughter to see whether her eyes had opened yet.
That story alone was enough to remind me of the power of storytelling.
As communities, we once drew on cave walls long before we had the language to tell the stories that would protect our children and sustain future generations. My work reminds us that an equitable future, in which clean air is a fundamental human right, is defined by our past; a past in which we lived in harmony with all things.
Trisha DelloIacono from USA
In 2012, I was home with my two young children when a plume of vinyl chloride, a toxic and highly carcinogenic chemical, drifted through my New Jersey neighborhood. My sons began to complain of watery eyes, burning throats, and head pain, and I felt dizzy, tired, and clumsy. I found out on the news that 23,000 gallons of vinyl chloride had spilled following a train derailment in a nearby town.
I will never forget that day. My two young sons and I became extremely sick from this exposure–and my now 11-year-old suffers long term health effects. I have watched my son suffer uncontrollable nose bleeds, unexplainable memory loss, and a host of other health issues that may be a result of his toxic chemical exposure. It seems every year we uncover yet another symptom that can be correlated back to the polluted air he was exposed to when he was just 2 years old. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t question whether the next symptom we uncover will be cancer.
This disaster made me realize that you can’t buy clean air. While I did everything I could to protect my children from toxic chemicals in the products that I used on their skin and in the food that I fed them, I couldn’t buy them clean air. For that, we need policies and standards that put children’s health first. That’s why I decided to join with other moms and dads, with Moms Clean Air Force, to advocate for our kids.
I live in New Jersey, a manufacturing state, chock full of chemical facilities and factories. As a mom, bringing a new life into the world only reinvigorated my desire to create a better, cleaner, and safer world for the next generation. We have to fight for clean air for our babies, because if we don’t, no one else will.
As a mom to four young children and two stepkids, one of whom suffers from severe asthma and allergies, I feel it is my mission to fight for clean air.
I am concerned about climate change, and the air pollution that is fueling this crisis. Methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas pollutant that is significantly contributing to climate change. Air pollution created by oil and gas operations contributes to ozone smog that can damage lungs and trigger asthma attacks. Children bear the greatest burden from air pollution because their lungs are still developing and they spend a good portion of their time playing outdoors. My stepson, an avid athlete and junior in high school, is the one suffering when heat waves and high ozone days in the Northeast trigger his asthma attacks. Over 26 million people in the US—including more than 6 million children—suffer from asthma.
At a time when our country is battling a public health crisis that is especially lethal for those with respiratory trouble, it is vital that we are protecting public health and keeping everyone's air clean and safe to breathe. Cutting methane pollution from the oil and gas industry is essential to this effort.
Not only have I personally felt the urgency to take action that comes with new motherhood, I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the country to talk to other new and expecting moms about the ways that they too can change our world. It’s been truly inspiring to witness the intense love that moms have for their kids and the way it drives them to protect the air those little lungs breathe.
No mother should have to worry if the air their child is breathing is safe for them to play outside.
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