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01 December 2011, 3:29 PM
One Man's Quest for Clean Air

Tom Frantz grew up in California’s central valley. The once sparse rural area is now the source of food for millions of Americans, and throughout his life Tom has seen the bucolic pastures of his childhood transform into modern-day mega-farms.

When Tom’s daughter was 10 she started to develop migraines. Then Tom started having breathing problems. His father and brother started having to use inhalers. When he talked with others in his small his community of Shafter, CA near Bakersfield he heard similar stories from his neighbors. Pollution from Big Ag was combining with other industrial sources to form a toxic soup that was wreaking havoc on local health. Tom noticed a connection between poor air quality days and the health of his family.

Around this time, a 3,000-cow dairy opened near the school where Tom taught. At first it was a nuisance. Teachers had to install fly strips in classrooms to keep students on task. Quickly though, the nuisance became a problem. Nitrate levels in the school well spiked to unsafe levels and fine particulate matter in the air skyrocketed. Eventually, some students had to stay inside during recess due to bad air conditions.

Tom, a life-long activist, had seen enough, so he took action. He organized with people in the community. He started a grassroots organization. He got involved in legal action to improve air quality. And he started taking pictures, lots of pictures.

“I realized quickly that if I had visual evidence of the things I was talking about then people could not deny that these problems exist,” Tom said.

“I believe that individuals working together can make a difference. We need an improvement in the health of our community and our environment. But that change won’t come without individuals working together towards that goal. For me the photos and videos are just part of that work.”

This year, the EPA will continue their work on the same issues that are impacting people like Tom. The agency must soon update national health standards for fine particulate matter air pollution (PM2.5), commonly referred to as soot—a major cause of premature death and a widespread threat to those who suffer from lung and heart disease. These national health standards are critical tools that drive the cleanup of soot pollution across the country in places like Tom’s backyard and yours.

Earthjustice and other organizations are working in the courts to get a deadline set for the EPA to act.

You can send a message to your congressperson that you believe in the right of all Americans to breathe clean air. And you can learn more about the potential impacts of the EPA’s fine particulate standard in a recent joint report from American Lung Association, Clean Air Task Force and Earthjustice titled Sick of Soot.

Tom was kind enough to let me follow along as he documented area pollution for a few days. In the video you can see him in action and hear him talk about his passion for cleaning up the air we all share. The time for us to take action and help people like Tom is now. We hope the EPA is listening.

The best thing we can EACH do is stop buying from factory farms and large corporations. I am vegan and only consume 100% organic products. I also buy local and from small businesses. Be the change you want to see in the world!

That's the only way to avoid catastrophes happening every second.

Tom,

You are a hero.. I moved away from Exeter, CA for the very reasons you pinpointed. I knew things wouldn't change before they affected my family. I have written dozens of letters Congress, and the governor. This is the action list:

1. rep Nunes needs to be exposed as the corporate puppet that he is.. He votes against all environmental legislation in the Central Valley and is paid off by the Dairies.
2. The health care burden due to the air pollution in the Central Valley needs to be exposed as a hard cost number..
3. FACT: the national childhood asthma rate is 4% ...the Central Valley asthma rate is at least 16%
4. FACT: The Majority of Ground level ozone in the Central Valley is caused by the VOC from Dairies mixing with NOx from traffic (i -99 and I5) and industry emissions.
5. The fact that the air pollution is anthropogenic and violates EPA standards on a regular basis and is DIRECTLY linked to shorter lifespans is the basis for class action litigation.
6. The industry from which most of the air pollution arises (Dairies, Ag) and Govt agencies responsible for maintaining EPA air quality standards are essentially violating your and other inhabitants of the Central Vally, Constitutional right to Life.

feel free to contact me for a discussion.

Thank you Tom for all that you are doing!! It is inspiring to see people like yourself taking on big industry for clean air and the health of everyone. Keep up the good work!

Thank you Tom for all your efforts and love for community and earth balance! We all need to realize this is an integrity issue, it is our responsibility to create a good future for ourselves and our children. When we lose sight of the IMPACT of own our choices we lose a part of ourselves.

I used to take tour groups though California's Central Valley on route to Yosemite, with a night in Merced. In that short time, I would have a pounding headache until reaching the (so far) clean air of the Yosemite Valley. I always wondered how people managed to live there.
We can all make a difference for the air, the environment, our personal health as well as stopping animal suffering by eliminating dairy and all animal products from our diet.

. . . so much for California's 'happy' cows. Kudos to Mr. Frantz for his work.

These attacks on our people and environment are constant and ongoing with no regard to the planet or the life it sustains. This is done in the name of power and greed. It is time to let "corporate personhood" work and hold those that massacre the world accountable. May the punishment fit the crimes.

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