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On World Asthma Day, a Visit to the White House

Alex Allred and her family are surrounded by cement. Not concrete, which is made from cement, but the big industrial facilities that crush and heat limestone to make cement. She lives in Midlothian, TX, an area known locally as “The Cement Capital of Texas,” a distinction that Alex and her family cannot appreciate. Her son eight-year-old son, Tommy, has asthma. His visits to the hospital emergency room are too numerous to remember. His asthma attacks hit him like a tank, unexpected and relentless.

As Alex describes it: “One minute he’s running around like a normal little boy, and the next minute he’s on the floor of the car gasping for air as I fly down the road, trying to get him to the hospital as fast as I can.”

Alex and her family believe it was air pollution from the cement kilns and other big polluters in their neighborhood that caused Tommy’s asthma. He and Alex have written a short story about how the pollution affects his health, and in it he describes what an asthma attack feels like: “It is very scary and sometimes when you can’t breathe, you think you’re going to die. Then, when the attack is over, you feel like you have to go to bed.”

Today is World Asthma Day, and to celebrate, Alex is joining an unprecedented collection of doctors, faith and tribal leaders, nurses, social justice advocates and affected citizens who have come to Washington, D.C. as part of “50 States United for Healthy Air.”

Alex will be meeting with officials at the Environmental Protection Agency and in the White House to talk about her son’s experience with asthma. She will be talking about the need to clean up pollution like particulate matter that triggers asthma attacks. She’ll call upon the EPA and her elected officials to protect the Clean Air Act and ensure that new rules designed to clean up pollution from cement plants, power plants and other industrial polluters remain strong and enforced. She’ll tell Tommy’s story about the dozens of medications he takes every day, about the struggles he goes through just to make sure he can breathe and not end up in the hospital.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Alex and her family for many years, and I'm amazed by the strength and focus they have to push for a cleaner environment for themselves and their community. She is truly an inspiration to us all, and she is not alone. The 75 other Clean Air Ambassadors from every state in the country have similar stories to tell, and you can read them at These are powerful testimonies about the impact that dirty air has in our lives. Post a comment and let them know that you stand beside them in their efforts to help build a cleaner, healthier environment for us all.

World Asthma Day is designed to bring awareness to the triggers and causes of asthma. We should be grateful to those who are working to make sure the politicians and regulators are aware of what its like to live with asthma every day.

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