Sierra & Tierra: “Our Lives Are More Important Than Their Profits”
Thousands of young Latinos in the Valley have their own story about the suffering caused by air pollution, including Selene Hernández, whose grandmother recently died of lung cancer.
“During her last days she got very sick and could barely breathe because of the dirty air. I don’t want anyone else to go through something like that,” says Selene, who’s also a senior at Desert Mirage HS.
The current standard is 75 parts per billion (ppb), but health experts, such as the American Lung Association, insist to really protect public health the standard must be reduced to 60 ppb. The EPA has proposed a standard as low as 65 ppb but is also accepting comments on a 60-ppb one.
“I demanded for them to bring the ppb down to 60 because it is a human right to have fresh air to breathe,” says Lupita.
The benefits of fighting air pollution can be enormous. A recent University of Southern California study found that a substantial improvement of the air quality allows children to develop bigger, stronger lungs. From 1999 to 2011, a period during which air quality in California improved exponentially thanks to the Clean Air Act, researchers observed that among the 2,000 participants in the study, there was a 10-percent increase in lung capacity on average. Also, premature deaths were greatly reduced.
Polluters, on the other hand, insist improving the current smog standard would undermine the growth and profits of their industries. This is what the students have to say to the polluters:
“If they think they could be losing money, we out here could be losing our lives. By refusing to lower the ppb, they are putting our lives in danger. Asthma can come just like that, especially for little babies. Our lives are more important that their profits,” concludes Lupita, who dreams of attending Harvard or Stanford to become an environmental lawyer and “fight polluters in the courts.”
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