California Forum

A plea for cleaner air

Emissions of ozone, a smog-causing pollutant, are linked to asthma, heart disease and premature death.
Emissions of ozone, a smog-causing pollutant, are linked to asthma, heart disease and premature death. New York Times file

I am 13 years old, and I have asthma.

Having cleaner air is important to me because it lowers the chances of my asthma being triggered. I take daily medication to control my asthma symptoms, but I don’t let these symptoms stop me from playing outdoors or competing nationally in track and field and cross country.

My long-term goal is to compete in cross country and track in high school and college. My short-term goal is to bring home two USA Track and Field Youth Championship medals in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters this summer in Illinois. To accomplish this I must follow my asthma treatment plan from my nurse very carefully.

This plan is usually updated yearly, but because of my competition level and travel, I need to see my nurse every four to six months and before I leave the state. I also have to use another, stronger medication when traveling to different climates because of humidity or air pollutants.

Although I take my medications and follow my treatment plan carefully, I still worry about air pollution because it triggers my asthma symptoms. When I smell air pollutants, such as smoke or exhaust, I quickly cover my mouth and nose because my nose starts to sting and my breathing quickly changes. I begin to take short breaths so that I don’t deeply inhale these pollutants. This means that getting a full breath of air, clean air, is really hard for me. It also usually means my mom needs to have a nebulizer on hand to give me treatment.

As a youth ambassador for the American Lung Association, I know that bad air doesn’t just affect me and my mom, it also hurts many others with asthma and lung disease. Earlier this year, I testified in front of the Environmental Protection Agency in Sacramento, for the second time, at a hearing about ozone. I was there to share my story and let them know how important clean air is to me.

Ozone, also known as smog, causes millions of asthma attacks every year in the United States. According to this year’s recently released American Lung Association “State of the Air 2015” report, Californians are among the nearly half of all Americans – more than 138 million – who live in counties where ozone or particle pollution levels make the air unhealthy to breathe. The report, which is like a report card for America’s air, gave Sacramento County an F and ranked the city of Sacramento as one of the most polluted in the country. We also had more high pollution days than in years past.

I would like to continue playing outdoors and competing at a national level in track and field and cross country. Having cleaner air will help me to achieve my goals. I don’t want to have to keep telling the EPA to clean up our air. I just want to be able to breathe.

Jaxin Woodward of Vacaville is an eighth-grader at Vaca Peña Middle School.