EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is refusing to regulate car pollution. The last time this happened, I got full-blown asthma.
Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is throwing America’s clean car standards in reverse. Instead of protecting American families by regulating the air we breathe, Pruitt is getting rid of limits on car pollution — and it is going to make us all sicker. I know all too well what this could mean for Americans’ health. When I lived in a state without tailpipe pollution limits, I developed full-blown asthma in a matter of months.
In 2000, I was living in Atlanta, working in television, and my doctor told me to start walking every day. So starting in April, I would get up early to walk around Piedmont Park. My walking route paralleled the two major interstates that converge through downtown Atlanta. The city had very little public transportation so practically everyone commuted in cars. Twice a day, these highways became virtual parking lots of countless cars and SUVs creeping along, expelling gas and diesel pollution into our air.
By September, I was diagnosed with full-blown asthma.
I had never had anything wrong with my lungs prior to that. I had been an incredibly healthy middle-aged woman, so my primary care physician sent me to a pulmonologist. This specialist said he was getting a ton of new patients because of all the people getting asthma and he felt certain that air pollution in my city directly contributed to it.
Most people don’t understand that when you have asthma, your whole system is under attack. The costs I had to pay to heal the damage were unimaginable, but you have to do whatever you can to mitigate the condition. I was not eligible for Medicare, so I was paying a fortune for health care and asthma drugs.
Since the government wouldn’t stop automotive companies from polluting, I had to completely change my lifestyle. It was expensive, but my husband and I set up filters throughout the house that would run all day so we could sleep with cleaner air at night. When I would go to change my filters, they were blackened with soot. But wherever I went outside, or worse, if I got stuck sitting in traffic, I had no filter between the air I breathed and my lungs. All I could imagine were the microparticles coating my lungs with the same nasty black dust I found in my filter every month.
After fighting this for many years, I finally got my full lung capacity back and I never wanted to lose it again. My husband and I looked at each other and said, “Is it healthy for us to live here anymore?” The truth was, it wasn’t. After 22 years living in Georgia, we packed up and moved across the country, to Montana, where we could count on cleaner air. I couldn’t risk putting my lungs through another battle with asthma.
Now, in weakening national car pollution standards, Pruitt is poised to make my battle with asthma the new reality for millions of Americans. He is taking away the right of 13 states to protect Americans from what induced my asthma. He is working overtime to take away critical protections to our health and well being, just so car companies can profit.
We deserve better. The 25 million Americans who already suffer from asthma deserve better. Our elderly and our children deserve better. Pruitt is the EPA administrator, yet he is a public health hazard to us all.