But then, Tommy started getting sick. It was one thing after another: pneumonia, double pneumonia, bronchitis, fever, coughs, and shortness of breath. In 2003, we took Tommy to see a doctor at Children’s Hospital in Dallas. The doctor hinted that something back home might have something to do with Tommy’s illness. “Oh…you live in Midlothian. You might want to do some research on that,” he told us.
So I did. And I found out that in fact, the steam coming out of the cement plants near our house wasn’t just steam – it was filled with hundreds of thousands of pounds of mercury, lead, and other toxic chemicals. Suddenly, I understood why Tommy was always sick. The cement plants were poisoning the air. These companies were poisoning our kids.
And no one was doing anything to stop them.
So we started writing letters, and going to meetings, and making phone calls. And we started talking to other families like ours, who were worried that the air was making them sick. We went to Capitol Hill, to talk to our Congressmen. And in 2011, Tommy and I went to Washington D.C. to talk to senators and, we hoped, meet with the President. Everywhere we went, we asked people to stand up for clean air, and work with us to reduce air pollution because it makes kids sick.
Today, Tommy’s asthma is under control but because of the pollution in Midlothian, his lungs are permanently scarred and his respiratory function will never be completely normal. So the fight isn’t over for Tommy or for the hundreds of thousands of kids like him who struggle to breathe through the air pollution in their neighborhoods.
The big polluters are fighting hard, too. They are busy undermining clean air by delaying, denying, and obstructing public health standards that would reduce these dangerous emissions and protect our families because, they say, cleaning up air pollution is too expensive.
How can we stand up to these big polluters? We can start by renewing the promise of clean air for our kids and ask everyone we know to do the same. We can ask our friends, other parents, leaders, politicians, business folks, educators, anyone to join us in making a simple promise:
“I promise to protect America's children and families from dangerous air pollution. I will support clean air policies and other protections that scientists and public health experts have recommended to the EPA to safeguard our air quality.”
As parents, we all do everything we can to protect our children. Making the promise for clean air will send a message to the big polluters that it’s time to change business-as-usual. Visit www.peoplenotpolluters.org and make the promise. By doing so, others will hear us and join us. I promise.
Alexandra Allred is a mother of three from Midlothian, Texas and a clean air supporter.