Utah Mom Takes Clean Air Fight All The Way

BY ON February 6, 2012
Cherise Udell at a Salt Lake City clean air rally.

Cherise Udell at a Salt Lake City clean air rally.


Every now and then you meet a person…a woman…an activist…a mother, who takes your breath away. You know instantly that this whirlwind of energy will stop at practically nothing to ensure that her cause stands front and center. She doesn’t fight because someone’s begged her. She doesn’t need an ovation from adoring fans. She doesn’t even do it for the money. She does it because she must. She must for the love of her children. She must for your children. And she must for herself.

One such woman is Cherise Udell. Her mission is to clean up the air in her little slice of heaven, Utah.

Let me backtrack to how Cherise caught the attention of Moms Clean Air Force. Cherise contacted MCAF and asked if she could write a guest post about her fight to clean up Salt Lake City’s air. She said when winter comes to Utah the atmospheric conditions trap a soup of pollutants close to the ground and choke its residents.

Breathing Salt Lake City’s dirty air during a winter inversion is like smoking cigarettes…The doctors estimate that between 1,000 and 2,000 Utahans die prematurely each year as a result of our smoggy air. ~ Cherise Udall

Cherise birthed Utah Moms for Clear Air on a two-second inspiration at her kitchen table. It began with a simple, but heartfelt email to about a hundred local moms inviting them to join the efforts to clean up the air. Thousands of moms later, Utah Moms for Clean Air uses the power of motherlove to defend clean air for their families.

Mothers are in a special moral position to advocate for clean air. Our intent is simple: to ensure that our children, whose lives are entrusted to us, have a healthy environment in which to grow and flourish. Cooping them up indoors to avoid toxic air outside is not the solution.

Nothing coops up this group of mommies. Just last week, Utah Moms joined forces with doctors and took on the company, Kennecott Utah Copper, that is mining nearly a mile deep in the largest open pit in the world. It contributes to one-third of Salt Lake County’s pollution. Utah moms and the doctors have filed a lawsuit against Kennecott, accusing the mining company of violating the Clean Air Act.

Why? Because exposure to the dust, soot and gaseous chemicals constricts blood vessels and is sending blood pressure soaring, making some people’s hearts flutter, and spiking emergency hospital visits. The doctors say one of the worst outcomes is the risk these air particulates put on fetuses in the womb.

Rio Tinto is making our blood vessels act as if they were seven years older…One year after returning to Utah after practicing elsewhere, I began to have high blood pressure myself. ~ Dr. Claron Alldredge, an opthamologist at LDS Hospital

Kennecott is a subsidiary of the international mining conglomerate Rio Tinto, which posts billions of dollars of profit a year and can afford to clean up its act, said Cherise Udell, founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air. 

You go girl! Cherise says the mission of moms is innocently transparent. She prescribes a simple formula that transcends the political process, and scares the “bejezzus” out of politicians who would like to ignore environmental advocacy:

Cherise Udell with daughters, Sophia and Ella.

Cherise with daughters, Sophia and Ella.

1. They love our home baked muffins.
2. Moms defy political, racial, socio-economic and religious categorization, so therefore we cannot easily be dismissed.

The image of my baby with a cigarette dangling from her toothless mouth was enough to move me to action.

We all know someone on front lines of a cause like Cherise. Someone who advocates for something that is tunneled so deep in their soul that there really is no choice to fight or not. It’s hard to ignore someone like this. And Cherise would be the first one to say that it will take all types of advocates to win the fight for clean air — signing petitions, joining state meetings, marching on Washington, writing blog posts…and moving the discussion forward around the kitchen table, the gym, the PTA meeting, the water cooler, the carpool line, the boardroom, the soccer field.

Moms have the “move to action” power to take this clean air fight all the way!


TOPICS: Activism, Coal, Motherhood, Politics, Pollution, Social Justice, Utah