When our Pennsylvania-based Senior National Field Manager, Patrice Tomcik, (above) learned that her son had leukemia in 2009, her “world crashed.” From then on, protecting kids from pollution became a deeply personal mission. In a moving Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed, Patrice writes: “When Carson finished his last round of chemotherapy, I made him a promise: I would do everything in my power to protect him from ever having to go through the nightmare of cancer treatment again.”
For Patrice, protecting her son from a cancer recurrence includes fighting for policies, rules, and laws that protect her family from toxic pollution. She’s been especially vocal about cutting methane pollution and was even invited to testify before the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis about how strong methane safeguards would protect our children’s health and future.
A new Yale study in Environmental Health Perspectives underscores the importance of Patrice’s work. The study found that Pennsylvania children living near unconventional fracking wells, which extract methane, are up to three times more likely to be diagnosed with leukemia than those who were not. Patrice points out in her op-ed that her son may have been one of the cases in the study and that it “adds to a growing body of evidence indicating that there could be serious public health impacts associated with being in close proximity to oil and gas operations, and that we need more protective policies as a result.”
EPA is currently working on a draft oil and gas methane rule proposal. Parents can’t control the air that their children breathe, which is why we need EPA to take this opportunity to propose protections that are strong and comprehensive. Patrice writes: “There is no time to waste—both for my son, and for millions of other families.”
AIR POLLUTION HARMS OUR KIDS
Some Pennsylvania families are facing a second petrochemical threat, in addition to fracking—a new Shell ethane cracker plant northwest of Pittsburgh. The facility will produce the building blocks of plastic, releasing cancer-causing pollution in the process. Shell denies that the new facility will endanger residents, but clean air advocates disagree. Our Ohio River Valley organizer, Rachel Meyer, is raising her family near the new facility. She tells the Pittsburgh Independent: “Even if they stay below the applicable standards [for pollution emissions], this does not mean there will not be tragic health consequences, and this is especially true for our children, who are more vulnerable to pollutants.”
A new study from the University of Colorado shows that air pollution can harm our children’s health in unexpected ways. Researchers found that certain types of air pollution, like the kind released from vehicles and industry, hinder the development of a healthy microbiome in infants. This puts babies at risk for allergies, diabetes, and inflammatory diseases. Colorado organizer Laurie Anderson reacts to the findings, telling the Colorado Sun: “This study adds to a growing body of evidence that breathing pollution harms more than just our lungs. Babies and children are especially vulnerable. Here in Colorado, where we have persistent air pollution problems, this study increases the urgency of taking swift action to reduce pollution—especially in the most impacted communities.”
Diesel-powered school buses are another source of dangerous pollution that can be especially harmful to children, threatening their lung, brain, and heart health. Diesel exhaust can also trigger asthma attacks, which is why our Manager of Member Cultivation, Julie Kimmel, tells the Culpeper Star Exponent and Dogwood that long bus rides can “feel like a matter of life and death” for children with asthma. Julie emphasizes that this is why we need to replace fossil-fueled buses with electric ones, which do not produce tailpipe pollution: “If you want to protect our children’s health and future, you cannot afford to put another fossil-fuel-powered bus on the road.”
Unfortunately, the burden of air pollution is not borne equally. Low-wealth families and people of color are disproportionately exposed to unhealthy air, which can increase their risk of developing asthma, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. For kids in these communities, a daily dose of diesel exhaust on their way to school compounds this risk.
EcoMadres Program Manager Carolina Peña-Alarcón tells El Tiempo Latino: “Pollution is affecting immigrant communities, which is why asthma is a disease that is becoming chronic and is impacting the health of Latino communities, including children. This is why we have made visits to schools to talk about the benefits of using electric school buses, which can help reduce air pollution”
Carolina’s quote has been translated from the original Spanish and is part of an EcoMadres profile that also ran in Hecho en California.
MOMS CELEBRATE THE IRA
Last week, National Field Manager Liz Brandt and Michigan organizer Elizabeth Hauptman joined President Biden on the White House lawn to celebrate the newly minted Inflation Reduction Law. The law, which is also known as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), includes a historic $369 billion in climate investments. In a conversation with Mike and Jon Got It Going On!, Elizabeth highlights that the IRA will “not only … help clean up our air and our water in our environment, but this will also save money for families.”
Both Liz and Elizabeth have been advocating for this critical climate initiative at every step. Liz lives in the Washington, DC, area and has represented Moms Clean Air Force at dozens of Capitol Hill visits, legislator meetings, visibility events, and press conferences. Liz tells her story in her latest blog post. Elizabeth has been a leader on advocating for the IRA in her home state of Michigan. The press conference she organized to highlight the IRA’s benefits was covered by several different local TV stations, including WILX 10. She was also quoted in a press release from Senator Peters’ office that ran in the New Zealand outlet Foreign Affairs.
PARENTING IN A CHANGING CLIMATE
Elizabeth Bechard is Moms’ Senior Policy Analyst, a public health graduate student, a coach, a mom of twins, and in her free time, an author! Last year, Elizabeth published her book: “Parenting in a Changing Climate: Tools for cultivating resilience, taking action, and practicing hope in the face of climate change.”
Elizabeth shares some of these tools on a recent episode of the Hope. Act. Thrive podcast. She says: “One of the things that helps me to stay engaged in a more sustained way, is taking the perspective that climate change—it’s extraordinarily painful—and it’s also an opportunity to live into our values and to live a life of meaning and service and purpose.” Elizabeth recommends that parents find a climate community so that they don’t feel like they are taking on the climate crisis alone.
- Our former Senior Director, Heather McTeer Toney, talks to Inside Climate News about how environmental injustice, climate change, and an “exodus of wealth” led to the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi.
- The Arizona Republic mentions Moms in an article about how mothers are organizing to slow climate change and in another about the state’s solar industry.
- West Virginia organizer Lucia Valentine spoke at the opening of Green Power Motor Company’s all-electric school bus manufacturing facility in South Charleston, West Virginia. The event was covered by School Transportation News and School Bus Fleet ran Green Power’s press release about the event, including Lucia’s quote: “Moms across West Virginia are excited to support zero-tailpipe-pollution electric school buses right here in the Mountain State… West Virginians deserve to breathe clean air.”
- The Sierra Nevada Ally quotes former Nevada organizer Cinthia Moore in a recent article about the benefits of replacing diesel-powered buses with electric ones: “Uncontrollable wildfires made worse by climate change have led to very unhealthy air quality in Nevada. It’s hurting our most vulnerable people: children, the elderly, and anyone with underlying health conditions. That’s why Nevada’s leaders must work to reduce air pollution from sources we can control.”