Does someone in your household start coughing after strenuous activity in the summer, maybe even use a rescue inhaler? I’ve been amazed at how common it is for families in East Tennessee to have breathing difficulties, with one or more members diagnosed with asthma or another breathing problem. These are NOT necessarily households where anyone smokes. I was recently chatting with families as they signed Tennessee’s banner for Moms Clean Air Force and was truly amazed at the way clean air has become such a personal challenge for many.
I suppose we’ve been taking clean air for granted in Tennessee, as has the rest of the country. After all, we can brag about some of the world’s most beautiful scenery in the Great Smoky Mountains and throughout the Tennessee Valley. Many would say we don’t suffer scenery-blocking smog like in decades past, and by some accounts we’re making improvements.
Where this subject gets sticky is that some types of pollution, like ground-level ozone, we don’t have to see or smell before they get us all choked up. Sunlight triggers a chemical reaction involving substances that industrial processes spew into the air. This pollution can increase tendencies for breathing problems. When Knoxville, Chattanooga and Memphis are regularly cited as some of the nation’s worst for asthma and allergies, the reasons could be complex — and one suspected reason is air pollution.
Power supplier Tennessee Valley Authority can boast that it’s already on track to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s newly proposed standards for reducing carbon pollution and curbing climate change. That’s largely due to a court settlement in 2011 in which TVA agreed to pay $10 million in civil penalties for past clean air violations.
Where this subject gets even stickier is that there always seems to be some entity lobbying Congress to gut or roll back any power the EPA has to enforce clean air rules. Plus, new technologies like modern hydraulic fracturing for natural gas are creating new air pollution sources that are neither entirely understood nor regulated. Today, climate science shows the globe teeters perilously at the brink of climate destruction, and one of the most immediate effects we feel is to our health. We’re not breathing as easily as we should. The American Lung Association says in Tennessee alone we have more than 142-thousand documented cases of pediatric asthma, plus hundreds of thousands more cases of adult asthma and COPD.
My family is honored to carry the messages of concerned moms and dads along with involved teens and creative kids – to Washington next week for a national Play-In for Climate Action with Moms Clean Air Force. Thanks to MCAF for making that possible. When we join moms from around the nation, my daughters will help me share the message that Tennesseans care about clean air and the health impacts of climate change.
Here’s how YOU can get involved:
Talk to other parents about your clean air concerns and what we can do about it individually and collectively.