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Dirty Air Hurts My Family, Congress Set to Make it Worse

My name is Alex Allred. I live in a town that is surrounded by three cement plants. Two of our elementary schools were declared among the most toxic in the nation. Today, the House of Representatives is debating a bill—H.R. 2681—that could have a big impact on my health, my family's health, my community's health, and the health of communities all across America that are in the shadow of cement plants.

I worked with Earthjustice for many years to get the Environmental Protection Agency to issue strong air pollution standards for cement plants—the 2nd worst mercury polluters in the nation. Mercury exposure can cause birth defects and damage babies' developing brains. When the EPA finally did issue those strong standards last summer, we rejoiced. But H.R. 2681 threatens to take all of that away. It would exempt cement plants from the Clean Air Act and encourage those facilities to burn tires and other industrial garbage without controlling the toxic pollution that results.

H.R. 2681 will hurt families like mine but won't do a single thing to preserve or create jobs. Its supporters claim it is a cure for what ails us economically, but they haven't produced any evidence to support that. Meanwhile, EPA findings and independent studies consistently show that clean air is good for the economy! I know firsthand that it is good for my family.

I'd like to make an offer to the supporters of H.R. 2681: If you think that clean air isn't important, I invite ... no, I beg you to come to my home town. Please. I have been trying to sell my home for years. Please come buy my house. Allow me to leave my town that is surrounded by three cement plants, that has two elementary schools that were named as being the most toxic elementary schools in the nation! Come to my hometown and go to some of the fundraisers for children who are having unexplained seizures, see what it's like to attend funerals for 15-year-olds, and visit with a growing number of children with disabilities. Don't just read the reports or hear the pleas of concerned parents. Come. Visit. See for yourselves.

In this photo, taken as part of the 50 States United for Healthy Air project, I'm holding a photo of my son, Tommy, and I playing in our yard. Photo: Chris Jordan/Earthjustice

Before you pass another law without true and honest knowledge of what you are doing and how harmful your actions can really be, please be a true representative of this great nation, be a concerned and involved leader and be my dinner guest. Let me take you on a tour, talk to my neighbors, visit school nurses and chat with my son, Tommy, who has chronic asthma brought on by air pollution.

This is not an issue about the economy or industry or free enterprise. This is my life. This is the life of my children and my neighbors. This is our future. Please don't sell it out to the greedy interests of a dirty industry that should and could have cleaned up more than a decade ago.

We are who we are as a nation because we want citizens to have freedom but also safety, security, health and happiness! That is what makes us great and now, more than ever, when times are so incredibly tough, we cannot turn our backs on the health of our nation!

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