Last week, Moms Clean Air Force joined a coalition of environmental, health, and civil rights groups on newspaper and digital ads that highlight the importance of strong smog standards for black Americans. The beautiful, smiling child in the ad symbolizes to me everything that’s at stake as the Obama administration reviews a rule to update our national standards for smog pollution, a process mandated by the Clean Air Act.
Ground level ozone, or smog, is dangerous for kids to breathe. As a mom, my biggest concern about smog is that it can trigger asthma attacks in children who already have the disease. A robust body of scientific evidence tells us that. It also tells us that smog interferes with lung development, and can set children up for lung problems later in life.
Asthma is major health problem. More than 9% of US children have the disease, and those numbers can be much higher in urban areas, in poor communities, and in communities of color. In DC, where I live, more than 12% of children have asthma. In nearby Baltimore, 20% of children have asthma. That’s one in every five kids – double the national average.
For moms, there is pretty much nothing more frightening than watching your child struggle to take a breath. Although my children don’t have asthma, I have many friends and relatives who do, and I’ve heard a lot about the burden that this serious disease places on their families. And it’s not just the health impacts. When kids have asthma flare-ups, they miss school. Asthma is one of the leading causes of missed school days across the country. When kids miss school, parents miss work. They visit clinics, doctors, pharmacies, and hospitals, straining their wallets and our healthcare system.
An updated, science-based smog standard is a win for our kids and our communities. A strong smog standard will give families cleaner air to breathe, less asthma, fewer missed school and work days, and reduced healthcare costs. These benefits will accrue most to those who need it the most: communities disproportionately burdened by asthma.
A science-based smog standard will also give families the truth. Parents have a right to know whether the air is safe to breathe.
Smog is certainly not the only asthma trigger out there. But we have an obligation to our kids to crack down on known triggers where and when we can. That’s why moms want a science-based standard, to protect our kids’ health.