Field burning caused my son repeated bouts of pneumonia, and it causes me and my daughter to have asthma episodes.
My husband, Dr. Jeffrey Krautkraemer, died in 2004. He was diagnosed with cancer of unknown origin in November of 2004 and died just four weeks later. There was no history of such cancer in his family. He walked to work every day, and was a professor. He did not smoke. His only toxic exposure to anything came in the form of agricultural field burning, as the smoke filled our home for months at a time over at least 10 years. We tried to photograph local plumes of smoke on roadways and in our town.
His doctors felt that the toxic smoke may have had some connection to why this cancer developed, but we have no proof that this caused his death. Still, my children have been left without their father and I believe his life ended prematurely due to the high exposures to the toxics in field burning. Field burning caused my son repeated bouts of pneumonia, and it causes me and my daughter to have asthma episodes.
I want the president and Congress to know that the protection of human health is critical to strong communities. Strong communities can attract new businesses for job creation, and no one wants to locate to a community in which you won't live long because the air is toxic. For example, asbestos contamination in Libby, Montana means that fully one-third of the population there will die early due to asbestos dumping by the Grace company. Would you move there knowing this? Funds for full clean up and then monitoring and ensuring such tragedies never happen again should be priorities, even amid new budget constraints.
The most important thing the federal government can do is provide funds to cash-strapped states so that important air monitoring and enforcement programs continue to function to protect public health. Without that, states are likely to ignore egregious violations of our state and federal clean air standards. This is critical, since we tracked at least nine deaths in Idaho over a period of 12 years which were a direct result of burning agricultural fields. Funds for air monitors are crucial to the state being able to run a good quality smoke management program, which was created by all stakeholders.