Clean air is a natural right that should be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of race or class.
The issue of air pollution became personal for me when I began to hear the countless stories of residents living near noxious facilities in southwest Detroit. Every morning, they are greeted by soot on their cars and foul odors. For years, they have been forced to breathe unhealthy air and, as a result, suffer from asthma and severe levels of cancer.
The local sources of pollution in my community are the Detroit Incinerator and the Marathon Oil Refinery. The Detroit Incinerator is the largest solid waste incinerator in the U.S. and a major source of pollution for the region. It burns an estimated 2,800 tons of commercial and household waste each day. The Marathon Oil Refinery in southwest Detroit is Michigan's only refinery, and it is importing tar sands oil from Canada.
Detroit is home to some of the most polluted sites in the state of Michigan. The industries that drove the city have been a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because of the economic development opportunities that were provided—the middle class was officially established through these industries. However, it was also a curse because of the environmental hazards that accompanied it, leading to rare forms of cancer, and increased levels of severe asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
Often, the residents of these communities are least likely to be able to afford quality health care and do not have access to preventive care. I am attending “50 States United for Healthy Air” because I have an obligation to fight for those who are too weak to fight for themselves. I am going to D.C. to express our concerns and to share our stories, in an effort to strengthen congressional support of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Clean air should not be a commodity that is only reserved for wealthy residents. It is a natural right that should be enjoyed by EVERYONE, regardless of race or class.