Posts tagged: The Right to Breathe

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The Right to Breathe


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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
11 May 2011, 10:00 AM
Pictures tell a story of the future Clean Air Ambassadors want to see

We talk about the importance of clean air a lot on these digital pages, but I could never express that sentiment as eloquently as the Clean Air Ambassadors who went to Washington, D.C. last week. Take, for example, the words of Dr. Lynn Ringenberg, a pediatrician from Tampa Bay, Florida.

Dr. Lynn Ringenberg

Lynn Ringenberg: This photo really has special meaning to me because it was taken at a beautiful, pristine beach in Florida with a baby that was about a year old—one of my resident's children. I've been a pediatrician for over 30 years, and although kids are 33 percent of the current population, they're 100 percent of the future. And we need to make sure to protect that future, and especially their health. The Clean Air Act is the way to do that.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
10 May 2011, 9:25 AM
Spoof site draws attention to asthma epidemic through humor
The Bieber model of Puff-Puff inhalers.

Coal cares. It really does. So we're told, at least, by a new website that offers free inhalers to asthmatic youngsters. The Puff-Puff inhalers come adorned with all sorts of kiddie icons: Elmo, Dora the Explorer and a little old heartthrob by the name of Justin Bieber, who takes breath away in a different way. The inhalers are meant to help "American youngsters with asthma…to keep their heads high in the face of those who would treat them with less than full dignity."

It wasn't until after I'd finished the Asthmaze (which you can struggle through in the Kidz Koal Korner) that I was struck by a suspicion that the website is a parody. Actually, I'd also already colored in the Puff and Ash dress-up cartoon before the realization hit, but I love playing with crayons.

And indeed, soon after I set the crayons down, a statement from Peabody Energy, the target of the parody website, hit my inbox.

1 Comment   /   Read more >>
View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
04 May 2011, 11:15 AM
Breaking up a bad romance with air pollution

Question: What happens when you mix Lady Gaga, clean air and a Basque flash mob?

Answer: This video.

4 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Jared Saylor's blog posts
04 May 2011, 8:12 AM
One in 10 children, one in 12 adults suffer from asthma.
Courtesy Univ. of Maryland

Asthma Awareness Month kicked off with grim news. The New York Times reports today that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that finds almost one in 12 Americans and one in 10 children are suffering the effects of asthma. The report showed that African-American children are most acutely affected, with nearly one in five afflicted, a significant increase from just 10 years ago when one in nine African-American children were diagnosed with asthma.

This sharp increase baffles researchers, but the numbers do not lie: more Americans are suffering from asthma than ever before. It’s likely that many reading this blog either suffer from asthma  or know a friend or family member who does. There are many triggers for an asthma attack, such as second-hand smoke, mold or dust. But, big polluters like cement kilns and power plants play a prominent role as well. These facilities pump tons of fine particulate pollution and smog into our air, worsening air quality, triggering asthma attacks and causing asthma to develop in the most vulnerable populations: our children.

The CDC reported that Midwest and Northeast states are suffering the highest incidences of asthma rates in the country.

View Jared Saylor's blog posts
03 May 2011, 1:28 PM
Asthma affects more than 25 million Americans; some are in D.C. to talk about it
Alex and Tommy Allred, from Midlothian, TX.

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.”

View Chris Jordan-Bloch's blog posts
03 May 2011, 1:12 PM
Short film explores asthma through the words of those who suffer

In the words of asthma sufferers, asthma feels:

“Like you’re in a pool of water. You can’t breathe. And when you try to breathe it don’t work.”

“Like you put a pillow over your face and pushed it. It’s horrible! You feel desperate because you can’t breathe.”

“Like you wish you could still be playing outside, where the air could be cleaner.”

There are more than 20 million asthma sufferers in the United States. These men, women and children know all too well what it feels like to have an attack. But many others have no idea. I encourage you to watch a short film we produced that explores asthma through the words of those who experience it every day.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
03 May 2011, 6:38 AM
Clean Air Ambassadors share inspiring stories, speak truth to power

The Clean Air Ambassadors who arrived yesterday in Washington, D.C. have some amazing stories to tell, and I spent the better part of yesterday hearing them. Alexandra Allred from Midlothian, TX described a day she spent outside with her son Tommy—a day when he didn’t suffer his usual respiratory issues and could play carefree, like a kid again. “I had my son back,” she told me.

William Anderson, an ambassador from Nevada and Chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes, described the coal fly ash that shrouds his community in a haze of toxic dust, choking local residents and concealing the nearby mountains behind a curtain of miasmal fog.

Kimberly Hill of Detroit, MI told me about residents who live near the Marathon oil refinery, which is expanding to refine tar sands crude oil from Canada—one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on earth. Tucked under a toxic blanket, these residents suffer from respiratory disease and unusual forms of cancer.

The ambassadors’ stories spring from pollution, disease, loss of loved ones and other unsavory challenges that life presents. But more importantly, their stories are charged with hope, perseverance and bravery. Many of the ambassadors arrived to tell their tales having never set foot in Washington, D.C., that inner circle of government life where power concentrates imposingly, and too often to the exclusion of the very people whose votes put the powerful in office. To walk in those halls and sit in those offices to tell Very Important People how vital clean air is to one’s community is an act of bravery by which I am awed and humbled.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
02 May 2011, 12:05 PM
Air pollution is a national problem that needs fixing

More than half of U.S. residents—154 million people—suffer from polluted air that is often too dirty to breathe. This troubling statistic comes by way of the American Lung Association’s most recent State of the Air report. In 366 counties across the country, residents are inhaling dangerous levels of ozone pollution and fine particles, which are a major cause of premature death.

At the same time that these 154 million Americans are breathing dirty air, many of their representatives in Washington, D.C. are busy trying to dismantle the Clean Air Act. These allies of dirty industry think that limits on air pollution are unreasonable. They think cement kilns, power plants and other major sources of air pollution should be able to pollute without making any efforts to control toxic chemicals and metals that impact our health.

Well, I bet those 154 million Americans disagree. Our lives depend on clean air. Thankfully, more than 80 doctors, nurses, faith and tribal leaders, and community advocates from all 50 states are arriving in Washington, D.C. today to tell decision makers that we all have a right to breathe clean air.

Read the stories of these inspiring Clean Air Ambassadors and leave your own story and message of support for their efforts.

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View Brian Smith's blog posts
29 April 2011, 2:59 PM
Deal signed by governor today

At a formal ceremony in Centralia, Washington, today, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed legislation which will phase-out the massive 1,400 megawatt TransAlta plant between 2020 and 2025.

Under the agreement, Canadian-based TransAlta, will provide $30 million to be invested in direct economic development and energy efficiency in the Centralia community, and an additional $25 million to be invested in clean energy technology development in Washington.

TransAlta has also agreed to install additional controls at the plant to reduce haze pollution in regional national parks and wilderness areas while it is working toward shutting down the coal-burning units.

Earthjustice’s Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act legal work was an integral part of the campaign to help bring TransAlta to the negotiating table.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
14 April 2011, 12:15 PM
Some House Republicans want to delay life-saving health protections
Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY)

Today, another indication comes that some members of Congress don't breathe the same air as their constituents. Politico is reporting (subs. req'd) that House Republicans will soon introduce legislation to delay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to reduce the amount of cancer-causing, asthma-inducing, premature death-dealing pollutants in the air we all breathe—some congresspersons excepted, apparently.

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), who serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, was crystal clear about motives: "The objective is to delay the implementation of these regulations."

The health protections that House Republicans are trying to delay, which would finally clean up some of the nation's biggest toxic polluters—coal plants, industrial boilers and cement kilns—are already more than a decade late. In that time, unregulated pollution from these facilities has damaged our environment and made people sick. And what Whitfield didn't mention to reporters is that delaying these health protections further will lead to as many as 25,000 premature deaths… every year.

Here's a local yardstick: 25,000 people is nearly the number of students currently attending the University of Kentucky, Rep. Whitfield's alma mater.