The week of April 29-May 3, 2013 is “National Air Quality Awareness Week.” As a life-long sufferer of asthma and allergies, the quality of the air I breathe is directly related to my overall health and happiness. If you’ve ever had respiratory problems, environmental allergies, seasonal allergies or have children who do, then you know what I mean. I don’t take breathing for granted—a deep breath of clean air is a gift.
When I was younger and living in Chicago, clean air was hard to come by. Air pollution from cars and public transit is inevitably worse in metropolitan areas, and it was especially bad in the 70’s, when the lead toxicity from gasoline fumes was causing developmental health concerns in children and damaging the environment. As a Filipino woman, I’m genetically predisposed to be short, but I wonder if I was cheated a few inches by all the pollution I filtered through my lungs as a child. Comparatively, my two younger siblings, who spent most of their lives in rural Texas under pollution-free skies, are taller than me.
As I grew older (though not taller), I became grateful for the reduction of indoor air pollution. Clean air is so important in the United States that we’ve become a “non-smoking” country: smoke-free public buildings, office buildings, restaurants and airplanes. I’m personally happy about this, as cigarette smoke is a major asthma trigger. Just passing by a glass-enclosed “smoking lounge” in an airport makes my chest tighten in anxiety.
However, regardless of whether one is asthmatic or not, we should all care about the air we breathe. Breathing cleanses us and relaxes us. Deep inhaling and exhaling has meditative power. How many times have we advised someone, or have been advised, to “just breathe” when we are stressed? How often do we value a “breath of fresh air” literally and figuratively? We should ensure that our generation and future generations have the ability to breathe freely, clearly, and cleanly.
I’d like to share a few tips to help you be more mindful of clean air during “National Air Quality Awareness Week”:
1. Buy a plant or two and generate oxygen.
2. Change your air filters.
3. Get your air vents professionally cleaned.
4. Buy an air purifier.
5. Read an article on Climate Change.
6. Learn about the Air Quality Index and sign up for Smog Alerts.
7. Carpool to work or school (or walk, bike, or telecommute).
8. Learn about the Clean Air Act.
9. Quit smoking.
10. Give a hoot—don’t pollute.
You don’t have to be an environmentalist to worry about air quality. You just have to be a living, breathing human being. The circle of life begins and ends with breath—from the first gulp of air out of the womb, to your final exhale. Every breath in between these two is called your life. So, let’s make air quality count…and breathe easier.