The Struggle To Breathe Continues

BY ON February 6, 2012

Marcia. G. YermanTwo weeks ago I became sick. Not surprisingly, I was done in by the germs that my son had so generously shared. The previous month, a steady diet of apple cider vinegar chasers had kept me immune from his uncovered sneezes—a major liability in our small Manhattan apartment.

After a week of high-grade fevers, watery eyes, and congestion headaches, I decided that the holistic approach wasn’t working and that it was indeed time to consult a doctor. My internist listened while I explained the hacking, unproductive cough that had left me feeling like I had a broken rib—along with repeated episodes of not being able to breathe.

“That’s a spasmodic cough,” she informed me. In addition to the antibiotics and antihistamines she prescribed, there was an RX for an aerosol inhaler. I hadn’t used one since my son was in first grade, when I was continually ill with bronchitis. A decade later, when the pharmacist broke down my bill before asking me to swipe my credit card, I was shocked to learn that the cost of this basic medication was priced at $75—and that was with insurance.

I was glad that I had it later that night, when even sleeping upright was not helping to alleviate the painful coughing fits. Ever the writer, I jotted down notes to be considered for a future Moms Clean Air Force post. It seemed like a good use of time.

Eventually, within a period of two to three weeks, I will get better. But I couldn’t help thinking about the young African American children who suffer from asthma disproportionately, or the older folks with chronic lung disease. For them, being unable to breathe properly is a daily occurrence. Where is their relief? Will they be able to afford the meds they need?

Certain lawmakers may pooh-pooh the premise that removing toxins from the air will lessen our exposure to harmful airborne particles. However, a recent New York Times article outlined how “a broad array of wildlife,” including songbirds and bats, have been “harmed by mercury emissions.” (Talk about the canary in the coal mine syndrome!)

Luckily, not all representatives are science deniers. Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware has been a leader in working to protect the environment. As Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, he has been outspoken on how public health has been adversely impacted—especially in “downwind” states.

Again, it comes down to the average individual becoming pro-active. In China, where the government has been accused of manipulating stats on air quality, parents are taking a leading role in pushing back. In the report, Activists Crack China’s Wall of Denial About Air Pollution,” there is a paragraph about a Beijing father who founded a nonprofit environmental group called Green Beagle in 2009.

My acute bronchitis will eventually be better. However, for those Americans who won’t bet getting a reprieve from asthma or lung disease anytime soon—the struggle to breathe continues.


TOPICS: Activism, Asthma, Politics, Pollution, Social Justice