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Asthma and Clean Air: One Mother’s Fight in Texas

Asthma and Clean Air: One Mother’s Fight in Texas
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Written by Marcia Yerman on Moms Clean Air Force

It’s getting down to the wire.  On August 4, the window closes for comments on the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule.  The feedback the EPA has received will set the stage for the next act in the fight for clean air.

I’ve put out links where you can send a note to the EPA, and have asked parents to join the Moms Clean Air Force — an advocacy group. If you think there is no cause to worry, check out the July 27 New York Times article, “Republicans Seek Cuts in Environmental Rules.”

I recently listened to a call sponsored by the League of Women Voters that discussed the need for citizens to be proactive. The participant that engaged me on a visceral level was Alexandra Allred, the mother of an asthmatic child.  Her comments stayed with me as an example of a mother who had decided that speaking up and acting on her beliefs was essential — not just for her son, but also for the 7.1 million other children who have asthma.

I reached out to Allred by phone and e-mail.  She had a powerful story to tell.  I learned that in addition to being a mother, she was also a writer and the co-founder of the U.S. Women’s Bobsledding Team in 1996.  It quickly became apparent that Allred had used the same competitive drive she had harnessed as an athlete to find out why her son had become sick — and to question the power of companies to pollute with impunity.

Below is her story, as told to me in conversation and through written questions:

My family moved to Midlothian, Texas in 2001.  We liked the rural setting, smaller classrooms, and found a four-bedroom home on three acres.  When I saw the nearby cement plants and asked about them, I was told that they were “in compliance” with regulatory laws. We decided that everything must be safe.

Within two months, my son Tommy, age 2, began getting sick all the time.  He had pneumonia, double pneumonia, bronchitis and then asthma.  It was not until a few years later that we finally got the official asthma diagnosis.  Tommy had been hospitalized six times in two months, and his health was rapidly declining.  During an intake, a doctor from Children’s Hospital in Dallas noted that we lived in Midlothian — the “cement capital of Texas.” He connected the dots for me.

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Photo taken from Moms Clean Air Force, with permission

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4:50AM PDT on Sep 20, 2011

asthmatics are the canaries of the world's atmosphere and mums are right to fight to protect us all, I am asthmatic too.

9:01AM PDT on Aug 23, 2011

Clean air, clean water and clean food!!!

5:47AM PDT on Aug 23, 2011

there's no better fighter than a mother

5:46AM PDT on Aug 23, 2011

thanks for telling the world

6:05AM PDT on Aug 11, 2011


3:58AM PDT on Aug 8, 2011

I used to take care of a lady whose asthma turned into emphysema after she moved closer to the utility company's coal plant to create energy. She never smoked, nor did her family nor her husband. It happened anyway. Pollution can cause it too.

10:27AM PDT on Aug 4, 2011

We left L.A due to my health issues with the smog and asthma. My husband left a very excellent 6 figure job with a future to move to where the air is clean and he could only get a job making 1/3 of what he earned there.
We simply decided that my health was more important and we manage just fine because we have "enough" ....and I can breathe!

It was the best move we ever made and it happened over 18 years ago and we've never regretted it for a second.

3:45PM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

I'd like to know why you're family didn't move?? Why stay if it was making your son very ill??

1:04PM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

Marilyn L. You could not have stated better, and I would say 10 years is an hell of a long time to think about doing something now.

11:42AM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

Some very important lessons here.
1. Children or not research the area you want to move to before you make that step.
2. If you get in a situation described by the writer, with your children, start making plans to move right away. Your family's health is not worth staying nor the money you may lose. Why wait 10 years?

I am sorry for this family but I wonder about the common sense of the parents.

Lastly, as long as folks vote for Republicans you can kiss any progress made on the environment good-bye. They will pass bills to void the good progress or just ignore forcing the law. Keep voting for Republicans and we won't have a country at all and not much of a world.

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