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My Daughter Cole and 7 Millions Kids

From ages one to seven, my daughter Cole had severe asthma. There were long periods when she and I would be out of commission one week out of four — she too sick to go to daycare and I at home to take care of her. At the time, we lived in Tokyo, Japan, and I have vivid memories of hunkering down in our shoebox  apartment for days on end, struggling to keep a resistant toddler attached to the nebulizer, desperate for her to get better quickly and wondering how patient my employer really was with my frequent absences from work. I remember spending long, lonely nights keeping vigil next to Cole’s bed, watching her small rattling body fight for every breath and terrified it would lose.

When Cole was a year and a half old, a particularly nasty asthma attack turned into pneumonia and she had to be hospitalized. In Japan, it was standard procedure to attach IVs to very young patients to remove the worry of keeping them hydrated. My husband had to hold Cole tightly on his lap to keep her still, doing his best to twist his ear as far away as possible from her piercing screams as the nurse inserted a long IV needle into the back of her right hand. That pudgy starfish hand was then wrapped with so many layers of bandages and hospital tape that it became nothing more than a stump. Over the next ten days, Cole looked like a small amputee wandering the hospital halls with the aluminum pole of the IV drip trailing after her. I remember being kicked out of the hospital after visiting hours were over, worried to the point of tears that Cole would be so scared of being alone in her hospital crib that she would spend the night crying through the metal bars for her mommy and daddy, but we would not be there for her.

Cole is now 18 and looking forward to college.

Thankfully, she grew out of her asthma, but there are millions of other families every day who are going through the same experiences I went through. In the United States alone, about 7 million children have asthma, with more than 200,000 a year needing hospitalization. This is a huge burden on American families, on our health care system and, with the millions of days of productivity lost to asthma care, on our economy. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that in order to reduce the suffering and terrible costs from our asthma epidemic, we need fewer irritants (like air pollution) in our environment.

At the very least, our kids should have clean air, right?

It’s up to us to raise this issue–and to raise the alarm about clean air and our kids.  We really can’t afford to take clean air for granted, not when lawmakers like Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama assert that air pollution victims are “unidentified and imaginary,” even when the asthma rate among high school students in his state is a staggering 25%!

A couple of weeks ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new rules to curb power plants’ emissions of carbon pollution, which traps the heat that cooks air pollution into asthma-provoking smog. On April 13, the comment period on that rule will open to the public, and we need to collect as many supporting comments as possible RIGHT NOW to make sure the voices of moms and families are loud and clear from the get go. Together we can drown out the efforts of corporate polluters aggressively fighting clean air regulations with attack ads, lawsuits, and lobbyists.

The nation’s foremost doctors and health experts–including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, and Physicians for Social Responsibility–all call for “the strongest possible standards to reduce mercury and air toxics from coal- and oil-fired power plants.” 37 million children live in areas where the air is unhealthy, and kids who breathe polluted air can lose up to 15% in lung function compared to children who grow up where the air is less polluted.

Help the Environmental Protection Agency to stand firm against corporate polluters by showing that families across this country want clean air for kids. Please join your voice to mine so Cole and all our kids can have clean air to breathe and thrive.

Stand up and say you support clean air for kids, by signing MomsRising’s petition here.

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