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.
Photo taken from Moms Clean Air Force, with permission
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