When my family moved to Midlothian, Texas (a.k.a. the cement capital of Texas), we knew very little about the cement plants other than what we were told: "They're in compliance!" and "It's just steam coming out." We were more excited about the fact that we could actually afford land, own horses and goats, that we had an incredibly cool creek in the back filled with snapping turtles, crawfish, snakes, owls, coyotes, a bobcat and more.
But shortly after moving to Midlothian, my then two-year-old son, Tommy, became sick. Pneumonia, double pneumonia, bronchitis, fever, unexplained coughing and shortness of breath. We couldn't figure out what was going on because the rest of us—older, with stronger lung capacity—were fine. Only after a doctor at Children's Hospital in Dallas perused Tommy's medical file did he say, "Oh ... you live in Midlothian."
This was the beginning.
As I began to research, talk to my neighbors, teachers, school nurses and parents, I discovered that there was indeed a problem. School nurses talked to me about their "asthma baskets" and how the number of children with inhalers was growing. Later, my son's school would be named in a USA Today report as being in the upper 1 percent of the most toxic schools in the nation—the same school I butted heads with cement plant executives about being under the toxic plumes while children were at recess.
By age 5, Tommy risked being held back because of the number of days he missed due to severe asthma and upper respiratory problems. He was rushed to Emergency and put under doctor's care six times in two months! It was a horrible and terrifying time … made worse only by the fact that local government/city officials and cement industry did everything they could to keep this dirty little problem a dirty little secret.
In 2006 when it was discovered that a cement quarry was planned 500 feet from an elementary school playground, the response from AshGrove Cement (a company that is suing the city of Dallas and surrounding cities for supporting "green" cement) was, "We were here first." I cannot express how little concern is given to the health and welfare of children or any residents of Midlothian.
Read a storybook about Tommy's asthma and his meeting with Sen. Barack Obama,
written by Tommy and illustrated by his sister, Kerri Leigh Allred.
In 2006, my son Tommy—who has asthma—met then Sen. Obama, and they had an impromptu discussion about asthma. (Editor's Note: Check out a story about this meeting with Barack Obama, written by Alex and Tommy and illustrated by Tommy's sister Kerri.) Sen. Obama told Tommy about his own daughter's asthma. We left that meeting on Cloud 9 believing this would be a man who would do something about our air pollution problem. I want President Obama to recall his words to my son, to remember the frustrations the Senator felt about his own daughter's asthma, to feel the certain pride and definite commitment he made to this nation and DEMAND cleaner air.
I Promise to protect America's children and families from dangerous air pollution.
Because toxics and pollutants such as mercury, smog, carbon, and soot, cause thousands of hospital visits, asthma attacks, and even deaths,
I will support clean air policies and other protections that scientists and public health experts have recommended to the EPA to safeguard our air quality.
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