In Pennsylvania alone, more than 1 million adults and 3,000 children have asthma. I am one of those people.
In the city of Philadelphia, living with asthma is quite difficult. According to the American Lung Association’s 2017 State of the Air report, Philadelphia — along with other regions of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland — is 11th on the list of most polluted areas across the country for year-round particle pollution.
But I don’t need a study to tell me I’m breathing unclean air — my lingering cough and recent bout of bronchitis tell me enough. And this study and others like it paint a terrifying picture. As someone who has had to deal with the symptoms of asthma for my entire life, air quality is incredibly important to me. As a student here at Temple, I’m constantly looking for ways out of the city just for a breath of fresh air. But that’s not always easy.
Whether it be smoke, dust or pollution, the air we breathe is contaminated. My inhaler is by my side without fail any time I venture out into the city, because I know all too well what could happen if I were to leave it at home; my airways start to constrict, forcing me to take deeper breaths. It only gets worse with every additional breath. I struggle harder and harder until it becomes physically tiring to get enough air in and out of my lungs. And eventually, it no longer matters how deeply I breathe; no air gets to my lungs.
Without my inhaler, a simple stroll down Broad Street can turn into a nightmare.
While I’ve been lucky enough to have avoided that scary situation for quite a while, I know the risk is always there. In such a beautiful city, it can be easy to ignore the ugliness of poor air quality.
Asthma is not just dangerous. It can also be extremely expensive. Even if you don’t suffer from asthma like me, you’re still paying for it. The price tag for asthma in the Pennsylvania economy exceeds roughly $2.3 billion, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
This is why I joined the Defend Our Future Pennsylvania team, a group of volunteers who work to engage our peers in dialogue about the importance of the environment and our health. It allows me to do my part to fight climate change.
Raising awareness on campus is a great start, but we need action. Recently, we’ve been fighting to oppose proposed federal budget cuts of historic proportion to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. President Donald Trump’s administration is set to cut the E.P.A.’s current budget by 30 percent, slashing funding for all sorts of important programs, like those that help states monitor air quality. These cuts will undoubtedly have disastrous effects on our air quality and environment.
Everyone has the capability to help out. One thing we can all do is call our senators and representatives to tell them that we cannot and will not stand for these cuts. Asthma is my reason to make a change. What’s yours?
Justin Brown is a sophomore global studies major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.