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Clean Air Ambassador: Allison Kellenberger

When I started in the intensive care unit 18 years ago, I saw many asthma patients come in, and some of them left in body bags.

In my job as a registered nurse, breathing is on the "assess first" list. If you can't breathe, there is nothing more to do to save your life. As nursing students, we were told not to wear cologne or strong scents in our profession because it could harm patients if they breathe it. When I started in the intensive care unit 18 years ago, I saw many asthma patients come in, and some of them left in body bags. I never realized how deadly a disease it could be.

Then, 15 years ago, my son was diagnosed with asthma and I watched him struggle with it for the first 10 years of his life. Asthma affects more and more people each year and why? Because the air we breathe is more and more polluted.

I work for the University Of Missouri health care system and the coal burning plant that powers the university is on the edge of campus, only three blocks from our hospital and within 2-3 miles of the other three hospitals in town. Our city also has a coal-burning plant that is within the city limits. That means we have not one, but two plants in a city of fewer than 100,000 people.

I see the exhaust from the stacks almost every day. In the winter I see the cinders from the coal waste thrown on our streets, carried into homes and hospitals on our feet and washed down to our water source from the run-off in our streets.

I also work with a local agency called Missouri Rural Crisis Center, which is a group of farmers fighting for the small independent farmer. One of the issues they fight against is confinement feed operators in our state. These operations are deadly to anyone working in them or living near them. People that have farmed and lived in the rural community can no longer sit outside in the warm weather due to the lung-searing smell from large feed lots. Their children get sick and their property is devalued. Feed lot operators continue to lobby our state representatives to decrease the pollution standards and the fines they have to pay when they fail to obey the Environmental Protection Agency's health standards.

I want President Obama, members of Congress and EPA officials to get out of their offices and breathe the air! See where the smells are coming from and investigate why companies are not made to comply with the standards. If I break the speed limit and put others in danger, I have to pay for that. Why then do the big companies that put millions of lives in danger only get weaker standards and small fines? Obey the Golden Rule!
 

Ambassador Group Affiliation: 
American Nurses Association
Ambassador Profession: 
Registered Nurse