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.
Peabody got punk’d, so it’s no surprise that the company is mad. But I’ll tell you who should really be mad: the 24 million Americans who suffer from asthma. Air pollution, from the mining, transport, burning and disposing of coal, has a lot to do with those high numbers.
The launch of the Coal Cares website is no doubt tied to the fact that this is World Asthma Awareness month. In the U.S. asthma is truly a public health epidemic. Last week at the 50 States United for Healthy Air event, I heard story after story from the inspiring Clean Air Ambassadors about their personal struggles with asthma or how the disease has impacted their family.
One story, from Rev. Marcia Owens of Tallahassee, FL, is particularly striking:
My son Marcus is a football player. Marcus has had asthma since he was a little boy, and one of the stresses of going to his games is I have to have the inhaler in the stands. Clean air is important for kids to be able to do what they need to do without worrying about taking the next breath.
There are at least 12 boys on his team who have asthma, and at practice they line up the inhalers on the back of an old abandoned school bus. And when they need one—it doesn’t matter, they’re brothers, and they are all Albuterol—they just grab one.
This shouldn’t be. They should be able to have fun and play the game that they love without worrying about the next breath.
Rev. Marcia Owens of Tallahassee FL, one of the 80 Clean Air Ambassadors who came to Washington, D.C., holds up a picture of her son Marcus. Photo: Chris Jordan/Earthjustice
Hear Rev. Owens’s story in her own voice and see, read and hear the stories of all the inspiring Clean Air Ambassadors who came to D.C. last week to defend our right to breathe. These are the individuals who truly care about clean air, and they’ve got the stories to prove it.
Also, our multimedia producer Chris Jordan put together a poignant video on what it feels like to have asthma. Check it out: