Why Are We Afraid of the "E" Word?
As a writer and activist, I subscribe to numerous newsletters and have given to countless causes. Here is a sample of what was in my inbox on Tuesday, May 3:
"Each year, the first week of May is Teacher Appreciation Week — a chance to say thank you to the teachers who work long hours helping our children grow and learn." — American Rights at Work
"World Asthma Day is an annual event organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to improve asthma awareness and care around the world. World Asthma Day 2011 will take place on Tuesday, May 3, 2011. The theme of World Asthma Day 2011 will be "You Can Control Your Asthma."—Global Initiative for Asthma
"In fact today is Children's Mental Health Awareness Day — and this year's theme is building resilience in children who are dealing with trauma." — DC Action for Children
Keep in mind that Tuesday was a quiet day for me because I did not hear from the three different breast cancer lists I am on or any of the other organizations I support.
While I do not mind giving to any of these causes — they all do fantastic work! — I am irked by one thing: none of them ever mention the "e" word or the "environment." Yet, at the root of many childhood illnesses and social problems is environmental degradation. The link between the environment and asthma, especially, couldn't be more obvious.
"Air pollution plays a well-documented role in asthma attacks," the California Environmental Protection Agency website states. Yet, in no other department apart from the EPA, do California health officials urge the public to support better air quality laws.
The silence of not just these organizations, but the media in general, is costing money — and lives. Here are some sobering statistics from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America on the effect that asthma has on our lives EVERY DAY:
• 40,000 people miss school or work due to asthma.
• 30,000 people have an asthma attack.
• 5,000 people visit the emergency room due to asthma.
• 1,000 people are admitted to the hospital due to asthma.
• 11 people die from asthma.
It is high time we stop treating the environment as if it were the dreaded "e" word we can simply will away. Cleaning up our air is not only about preserving the environment, although that's nice. This is about protecting our health and saving our lives.
Not to mention it would save us, the consumer, money if we tightly regulated air pollution. Imagine what families could do with the extra income if they didn't need to purchase inhalers and nebulizers, pay for hospitalizations and other treatments for asthma? How much less would states — and the public — pay for asthma patients covered by public health insurance programs? Wouldn't it be cheaper just to prevent asthma in the first place?
The same could be said of cancer — here is a study linking air pollution with breast cancer — and even a child's mental health. The link between air pollution and school absenteeism has been well-documented as the link between wholesome outdoor activities like gardening and a child’s mental well-being.
I think it is high time we have our own special ribbon or awareness month to remember the lives lost to environmental health hazards — there, I said it! — like polluted air. If I have one request of the many fabulous organizations I follow it is to connect the dots. The environment shouldn’t be treated like this dirty word that has nothing to do with our every day work or lives. It has everything to do with what we do on a daily basis.
So, please, join me and ask the EPA to clean our air and save our lives!
Elisa Batista is co-founder and co-publisher of MotherTalkers.com as well as a proud member of the Moms Clean Air Force team. To share your story with Moms Clean Air Force or find other ways to obtain cleaner air for our children, please visit our website.