It’s something we all do, every day, thousands of times. Our lungs expand and shrink, our chests rise and fall, and we breathe 12 to 20 times a minute. Breathing is one of those things you don’t think about often; but when you realize you’ve taken it for granted, it suddenly becomes a gift. Every mother listens for their child’s first breath. My first daughter was delivered quietly into the world; she didn’t make a sound as they lifted her to my chest, pink and squirming. She nursed for the first few minutes of her life, and then, suddenly, her rosy color faded to dusty blue, and she was whisked away to a bassinet, surrounded by a flurry of tubes and machinery. She had momentarily stopped breathing — and in that moment, I again understood the profound importance of breath. My second daughter, now just four months old, also was delivered quietly, but with a less traumatic start. Her breathing problems begun only recently, sniffling and congested, her skin breaking out in angry red patches, her milky, chubby baby arms and legs incredibly sensitive to texture and scent. She just tested positive for a milk protein allergy. At least once a night, I tiptoe into her room and stand near her crib, watching for the reassuring rise and fall of her chest. These breaths fill me with life.
I have learned to be grateful for the gift of breath after years of suffering from severe environmental allergies. I’ve endured a collective four years of allergy shots, going to the allergy clinic twice a week, pricked with five injections of a rising dose of what ails me. Many things make up that list; trees, grass, pollen, dust, dander, mold. I live my life in a constant state of congestion; always carrying a spare Zyrtec in my purse, armed with tissues and prescription eye drops. I am grateful it isn’t worse, that I don’t have to worry about asthma or food allergies, but as a dweller in one of the most polluted cities in the world, I’m keenly aware of the pollution and stuff that enters my lungs on a daily basis. According to Lung.org, Los Angeles is the number one worst polluted city in terms of our ozone layer. It is well-known that ozone pollution affects irritants and response to allergens, and worsens chronic inflammation in Asthma patients. Now — at 32 years old, I’m hardly in my golden years, but never mind my lungs — how about my daughters’? At 2.5 years old and 4 months, my daughters breathe about 40 times per minute as compared to my 20. Children don’t just breathe more rapidly, they breathe more air than adults. Children have a larger lung surface area in proportion to their weight. They breathe 50% more air in proportion to their weight than adults. These little organs are working especially hard to help our children grow and thrive. Children also spend more time outside than adults, which makes clean air especially important for your child’s health. I’m writing this today on behalf of Baby Power, and have become one in one million parents in America who are demanding clean air for our children.
What can we do to help little lungs not just survive, but also thrive? To start, you can take 20 seconds of your day and use your name for good. Click this link to easily email the EPA and demand a plan that will reduce harmful pollution and protect future generations.
What else can you do? According to MomsCleanAirForce.org, you can do a lot!
Remove or reduce allergens such as roaches, pet dander, mold, and dust mites. (For us, this means making the switch to laminate floors when our budget allows, and vaccuuming as often as I can to reduce cat hair.)
Do not smoke tobacco products in or near your home. Support measures to make all public places tobacco-free.
Prevent mold growth by lowering the humidity in your home with exhaust fans in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms, or a dehumidifier.
Increase air flow (open windows and doors) to give your house better ventilation.
Store harmful products like pesticides and paints in a shed that is not attached to your home and always dispose of them properly.
Avoid using scented candles or products with odor-hiding fragrances.
Install and check regularly your smoke, carbon monoxide, and radon alarms.
Use a HEPA filter, if you want to use an air filter. Do not use air cleaners that emit ozone, which is a lung irritant.
Check daily air pollution forecasts on local media outlets or at airnow.gov.
Avoid exercising outdoors when pollution levels are high. Limit the amount of time your child spends playing outdoors if the air quality is unhealthy.
Do not exercise near high traffic areas. Even when air quality forecasts are good, the vehicles on busy highways can create high pollution levels up to one-third mile away.
Save energy: Use ceiling fans, replace light bulbs with CFL bulbs, turn off computers and appliances when not in use, and insulate your home.
Don’t burn wood or trash.
Don’t idle your car or truck engine. If you will be sitting still for more than 10 seconds, turn the engine off.
Use hand-powered or electric lawn care equipment rather than gasoline-powered. Old two-stroke engines like lawnmowers and leaf or snow blowers often have no pollution control devices.
Get involved. Talk to your neighbors and friends about why clean air matters to you.
Reach out to your lawmakers to let them know you care about air quality. Support measures to clean up the air at the local, state, and national levels.
I know that after reading more about this initiative, there are things I can do starting right away — like getting rid of our scented candles, running our HEPA filter more often, and turning the car off when my husband and I run errands and one of us sits in the car with the kiddos. Want t0 d0 more? If you’re near Chicago, Charlotte, Philadelphia, or Orlando, meet the Moms Clean Air Force at Mommycon! Don’t forget to add your name to the petition — and if you do, you could be entered to win a copy of Every Breath We Take and a child’s t-shirt.
It’s easy to take breathing for granted. Most of us don’t even think about breath unless we’re in yoga, trying to fight off the never-ending mental to-do list, or when we’re sniffling our way through a work day when we should have stayed home. But what if we all made a collective effort today to give some thought to breath — in gratitude, in support, and above all, in defense? Make the effort today, because our future and our children, are counting on it.
This post was sponsored by Baby Power, and is endorsed by the author of this blog as a cause that matters.