Lydia Rojas' 15- year-old daughter suffered an asthma attack so severe she died.
Even though he had never smoked, 33-year-old Robert Linkul of Sacramento contracted a rare from of cancer that forced the removal of the lower lobe of his left lung.
Vallejo fifth-grader Jaxin Woodward is an avid runner, but severe asthma forces her to curtail her passion for the sport.
These are just a handful of California residents who are set to testify before federal Environmental Protection Agency officials in Sacramento on Thursday.
The hearing is one of two EPA is holding across the country to gather information about its proposed new standard for protecting the public from fine particulate pollution, one of the more deadly forms of air irritants. These microscopic bits of dust, soot, metals, acid, pollen and molds can damage lungs, aggravate asthma, trigger cancers and hasten death.
EPA has proposed a standard for fine particles that the American Lung Association complains does not go far enough to protect public health.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have introduced legislation that would force the agency for the first time to factor in feasibility and cost when setting air pollution standards.
Cost and feasibility are appropriately considered now, but at the state and air district level where final environmental rules are drafted and implemented. The federal Clean Air Act requires the EPA to consider health science only when setting standards.
The law is intended to give the public an unvarnished assessment of what is needed to protect it from the damaging impacts of air pollution.
Nowhere is the debate over air pollution standards and the methods used to determine those standards more important than in California. Residents of our state breathe the dirtiest air in the nation.
At the southern tip of the San Joaquin Valley, particulate pollution is particularly severe. In late summer the primary source of particulates is diesel truck emissions. In winter, it's wood smoke.
The American Lung Association says that nationwide tougher standards would prevent 35,700 premature deaths, 2,350 heart attacks, more than 23,000 visits to hospitals and emergency rooms, 1.4 million cases of aggravated asthma and 2.7 million days of missed work or school.
Children like Woodward would benefit the most. Their young lungs are still developing. Bits of soot and ash breathed deep can lodge in airways and even enter the bloodstream, impeding lung development with debilitating repercussions that last a lifetime.
People who breathe the air in California and have a direct stake in this debate have a rare opportunity this week to weigh in on it.
The EPA's Sacramento hearing begins at 9 a.m. Thursday at the California Air Resources Board, 1001 I Street.