Sarah Grove and her family

SARAH GROVE

Decisions made in Washington, D.C., in the next two weeks could jeopardize Montana’s environment, public health, and economy for years to come. The Trump administration is working to weaken the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and cut its budget to its lowest level since the 1970s.

For my son and over 45,000 other Montanans with asthma, these budget cuts would be a direct attack on their health.

These cuts mean more Code Red, unsafe air days where children are kept indoors, more asthma attacks, and more sick days.

These cuts mean big slashes to the grants that cover state and local air quality monitoring. My son and the other Montanans living with asthma, in our ever-expanding fire season and the low air quality that it creates, don’t need less air quality monitoring. We need more.

For parents across Montana, these cuts mean we’ll have to take our best guess at the air quality. Currently, some families’ nearest air monitoring station is counties away, or beyond a mountain pass where the air quality could be dramatically different. We are already dealing with a piecemeal monitoring system. We can’t afford to let it get any worse. We could be forced to gamble with exposing our kids to serious health risks.

As a mother, the fear of helplessly watching your child suffer an asthma attack is indescribable. At its best, I am able to help my son by giving him medication before being near friends’ pets which trigger an asthma attack. When he gets a cold, which always settle into his lungs, I try my best to help him use inhalers until he recovers from illness. With our new reality of longer and more frequent wildfire seasons, extended periods of low air quality are inescapable, blanketing our communities and filling our homes and schools. Even using his inhaler several times a day doesn’t help during smoky conditions. And near its worst, the inhalers don’t work as I watch my son take deep labored breaths, still not getting the oxygen he needs. By the time we get to the clinic, I watch helplessly as his fingertips tint blue.

The stakes could not be higher: for all of us who depend on a safe and healthy environment to live a good life and raise healthy children, undermining the EPA’s protections would move us backward to a more dangerous era. Montanans depend on clean water, air and soil to live well and raise healthy children. Businesses statewide need a safe environment to build customers and create jobs, and Montana tourism, our state’s largest industry, depends on fresh air and clear rivers.

I can control many things about what my children are exposed to, but I can’t control the air they breathe. We can’t let the EPA’s budget be bargained away in backrooms. Our children’s health depends on it.

Sarah Grove lives in Billings.

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