Parenting Values Edition

As I was putting together this thread, I realized it encompassed all the values that I hold dear and hope to impart to my children. Without further ado, here they are:

Faith: In case you missed it, you must check out our ginabad’s blogpost about abortion, birth control and Rush Limbaugh. She echoed all that I thought as a Catholic mom and made me feel even more compassion for women in the difficult situation of an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy.

Oftentimes I have found my religion and politics colliding but as I always tell myself faith is a journey with bumps on the road and one that I want my children to experience. Speaking of, Ari’s first communion is this May. I was asked by friends at my church whether I wanted him to do reconciliation first. (Apparently, this has changed since I was a kid and it isn’t a requirement for first communion.) I am going to talk to Ari about it as I want him to have a foundation in the religion, but I also don’t want to push him if he is unprepared and turn him off to all religion. Catholic moms, can you share pros and cons to doing reconciliation before communion?

Bilingualism: This was important to me even before the kids were born. When I was a 21-year-old foreign exchange student in Spain, I bought kids’ books in Spanish from a street vendor. I translated all of my children’s English-language books into Spanish with my scrawl. My husband and I only speak Spanish to the children and send them to a Spanish immersion school to learn to read and write it — just as an English-speaking family would send their children to school.

Both my husband and I grew up in Spanish-speaking households where we had a least one parent who restricted English in the home. I, especially, have found Spanish to be very valuable for my job and see it opening doors for my children. I also see it as a way for them to connect with Spanish-speaking family members and feel pride of their Latino heritage.

I will be sharing this and more at a live chat on The Motherhood blog this Wednesday, March 14 from 1 to 1:30 p.m. ET. Please note in your calendar and join me!

Openness: It always saddens me when I read stories like these. Utah is about to pass the most restrictive law against sex education in the country. Public schools would not be able to provide any information on contraceptives in a health class or mention homosexuality at all.

What are these parents so afraid of? I can’t believe in this day and age in the United States of America, simply stating that condoms prevent sexually transmitted diseases — as I learned in a biology class in high school — is a source of controversy. I feel for these kids who will receive this information but from less trustworthy sources.

Clean Air: Cleaning our environment and reducing our carbon footprint has always been in the back of my mind even before I had children. I still prefer to walk over driving — even when the kids whine about it. My husband and son are vegetarians and I support that. I cook with organic ingredients and advocate for our environment whenever I can.

Ever since I took the staff position at, I haven’t been writing anymore clean air columns. (No time.) But this is still an area of passion for me as the health of all life depends on clean air and water. In case you missed it, anti-clean air amendments have been added to a transportation bill, which would mean more emissions of mercury and other toxic metals in our environment. Please click on this petition by Moms Clean Air Force to send a message to Congress. Thanks!

What are the values you hope to impart to your children? Happy TGIF all!


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

There is a lot happening this week, especially for the organizations I work for — and Moms Clean Air Force. Please sign up for their e-mails, if you have not already done so. You all are the best! :)

The Moms Clean Air Force is running a series of videos promoting clean air. Among the speakers are author Ayelet Waldman, actress Blythe Danner (she is also Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom), Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph.

There is a reason for all this corralling around clean air now. New mercury and air toxics standards are supposed to kick in this week, but some members of the coal power plant industry are fighting them tooth and nail. All that lobbying is to the detriment of our children’s health as mercury is in our air and water and arsenic in our food. If you haven’t done so already, please take action and sign this petition to President Obama at Moms Clean Air Force and MomsRising.

It is the holiday season. If anything, now is the time to count our blessings, but also remember our unemployed brothers and sisters out there looking for work. MomsRising ran a series of blog posts highlighting the need to extend unemployment benefits beyond December 31 of this year. Among the writers were my mother and a dear childhood friend in Florida who has had to visit a food pantry to feed her family. Please read and pass along to encourage your family and friends to support extending unemployment insurance.

In related news, the Occupy movement conducted a series of actions in Washington, D.C. last week. These were my favorite actions: first, this wonderful essay by Linda Evans, a great-grandmother explaining why she was occupying D.C.. I also appreciated this Los Angeles Times story about the protesters occupying one of Newt Gingrich’s fundraisers. (Seriously, I wonder who advised him to hold a fundraiser in the same place and at the same time as the protests?) Finally, I am glad someone stood up to K Street lobbyists — here is coverage of it on CNN. Many thanks to the Service Employees International Union for getting those clips together!

And one last piece of political news: in a rare move, the Obama administration overturned an FDA recommendation to sell the morning after pill — plan B — over the counter for everyone. This is stupid for a variety of reasons as spelled out by the blog RH Reality Check.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


How Money Degrades Our Environment

I originally wrote this piece for the Broad Side. Definitely check it out! -Elisa

Protecting the Clean Air Act as well as the Environmental Protection Agency should be our No. 1 priority as parents. We can disagree on religion, politics and how we run our households, but as individuals we have no control over pollution, which is why our government needs to protect us from it.

But what happens when polluters and chemical companies contribute millions of dollars to the coffers of our leaders? That, amigos míos, is the No. 1 barrier for the EPA and all who support its agenda.

For some years, I have been an environmental activist, not only advocating for clean air and water, but fighting against the use of toxic chemicals in children’s products. A little over two years ago, I testified in Sacramento, California, in favor of a bill that would have ridded toxic flame retardants from four baby products that pose no fire hazards: strollers, high chairs, nursing pillows and changing pads. Unfortunately, this would be one of five bills to fail in the state legislature.

Now I know what I and fellow parents were up against. I just read in a California newspaper, the East Bay Express, that the chemical industry has spent at least $23.5 million over the last five years in lobbying efforts against these bills. In addition, at least $593,000 in campaign money was donated over three election cycles to 85 legislators, including 44 Democrats and 41 Republicans.

Here is more insightful information in the newspaper, which pointed out that flame retardants are toxic and building up in our bodies, including our breast milk and our children’s bodies:

A five-month investigation by Environmental Health News revealed an infusion of chemical industry cash into California that has global implications. During the five years of lobbying, the flame retardants have been building up in people’s bodies, including breast milk, around the world.

Designed to slow the spread of flames, brominated and chlorinated chemicals are added to upholstered household furniture and babies’ products sold throughout North America because California enforces a unique flammability standard. The chemical industry has been fighting to retain that state standard and ward off California proposals to ban the chemicals or mandate alternatives.

As I saw firsthand in Sacramento, the chemical industry claims that flame retardants save lives. As part of their lobbying efforts, they shamelessly brought out burn victims and small children who had lost family members in fires. The point lost on everyone in the room is that these deaths and injuries occurred with flame retardants in the foam of all of our furniture and children’s products!

Another reason that the chemical industry’s claims are misleading at best is this peer-reviewed study released this past June showing that that California’s furniture flammability standard, also known as Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117), does not provide measurable fire safety benefits. TB117 practically mandates the use of toxic flame retardants in the foam of all of our furniture and even baby products like nursing pillows and changing pads.

However, one thing’s for sure: animal studies have linked flame retardants to cancer, neurological and reproductive disorders. The flame retardants easily leach onto dust, pet hair, and the crumbling foam of old products — surely, I am not the only mom who used second-hand baby products! — making them easy to ingest by children.

A silver lining in all of this sludge of dirty air and dirty money is that the public is paying attention. I want to thank the East Bay Express for its expose on the amount of money the chemical industry has spent to pump up its dirty goods. But I also want to acknowledge the growing and influential movement that are the moms here at MotherTalkers, MomsRising, Moms Clean Air Force and The Broad Side. We are a group of moms who are not to be messed with!


It Pays to Preserve Land

Editor’s Note: I originally wrote this article for Moms Clean Air Force, which by the way, has undergone a major facelift. Please stop by and comment! I am assuming that due to a glitch and/or timing, the article didn’t run. So I will run it here as it was my first time visiting Arizona. Enjoy! -Elisa

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — When a dear friend from Spain asked me to meet her in Arizona, I had one major reservation. Being a Latina who looks, well Latina, I was concerned about racial profiling related to Arizona’s SB 1070 law, which allows for local police to ask people for proof of immigration status.

I wondered whether I should bring my birth certificate, even though I was born in New Jersey. Where the heck is my birth certificate anyway?

Ultimately, I decided that seeing my friend, who I have not seen since I was in Spain 13 years ago, was worth the trip. Plus, it would be my first time in the state.

It was so worth it.

I have been to many parts of the world, including my father’s native country, Cuba, and I have to say that I have never seen anything more amazing and stunning as Arizona’s Grand Canyon:

One of the seven natural wonders of the world, it is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep of multi-colored rock, ponderosa pine trees and other desert shrubbery, and home to many endangered animals including the California condor and mountain lions. Oftentimes, I found myself putting down my camera to stand high on a rock and take in the views. I inhaled the Canyon’s clean – albeit hot – air and reflected on both its size and the insignificance of the stresses I encounter in my daily life. I wished for all my loved ones, including my husband and kids who I left behind in California, to be with me and experience that moment.

As “Ranger Ron” told us, it isn’t an accident that the Grand Canyon has maintained its untouched beauty for, literally, millions of years. Considering that approximately 5 million tourists visit the Grand Canyon every year, “it is here because of you,” he emphasized.

So often, the Grand Canyon could have become a permanent mining site for copper and uranium, he said. Or, it could have been developed like a strip mall. But it is tourists from across the globe, paying to get into the Canyon, who have assured that it isn’t developed and all the plants and animals within are protected. The Grand Canyon has been a national park since 1916.

I often wonder how many towns with similar natural beauty could survive off tourism as opposed to polluting plants and mining? Either way, I could not help but feel that everyone regardless of where they live should be entitled to clean air and water. It only reinforced the importance of the work that we do at Moms Clean Air Force.

I don’t know when I will return to Arizona, but I know that I will return with my kids. What are some of your favorite family vacation spots?


A Handwritten Letter to the EPA Is Gold

Cross-posted at the Moms Clean Air Force blog.

Recently I participated in a live blog radio conversation with fellow members of the Moms Clean Air Force, a group of bloggers helping promote new clean air standards. One of our goals all along has been to get our readers to write letters to the EPA in support of a new mercury and air toxics standards rule.

I have learned so much on this journey, including that our air has mercury — ! — and the importance of getting hand-written letters to the EPA. It makes sense to me that this is complimentary to online action as not everyone has access to the Internet and there are so many on-the-ground groups that could be tapped for letters, including the parent-teacher associations at schools, churches, community centers, book clubs, and even setting up tables in front of the big box retail stores like Target. We can’t dismiss the importance of speaking about this issue to our co-workers and even enlisting the help of complimentary businesses.  

I recently dipped my toe in this approach with good effect. Seeing that my church, the Roman Catholic Church, endorsed the new mercury and air toxics rule, I sent an e-mail to the social justice committee at my church in Oakland, California, to see if they would pass around my blog post on the new rules. They did more than that.

The wonderful head of the social justice committee made flyers about the new rules that included a link to the Moms Clean Air Force action page. She set up a table at church with the Bishops’ letter endorsing the rules, information about the proposed rules, and self-addressed index cards with the necessary docket numbers (#EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0044 and #EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0234). Altogether, we mailed out 30 postcards to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson with personal notes like these:

“As a father of two young children in an urban environment, I am very concerned with the effects of airborne pollution on their development. Please consider the long-term benefits of the passage of the Clean Air Toxic Mercury legislation. Thank you! Danny.”

“Thank you, thank you for proposing the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards! Most of us feel so powerless about emissions from plants. My son — a veteran — recently became ill, I believe triggered somewhat by nearby oil company emissions. The entire neighborhood feels dirty and unhealthy. Often we see such emissions and cannot do anything. Judy, Oakland”

“Please know that I stand with you in support of the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. As one who has children and expects to have grandchildren, I want to create a world that is beautiful, abundant and healthy for my own family as well as for the families of our world — since we are all really ONE family.”

My “work” in this initiative was limited to e-mailing my church and making an announcement at mass. While the church was willing to mail out the postcards, I offered as a “thank you” for all the work it had done to protect our families from mercury emissions and air pollution. I am convinced that this approach can be easily replicated by simply e-mailing our on-the-ground communities whether it be the head of the PTA or school principal, our churches or book clubs. The hardest part is taking that first step, which is to ask.  


Latinos and Mercury Poisoning and Other Maddening News

As a proud Cuban and Puerto Rican and lover of the great outdoors, I am particularly passionate about advocacy that helps clean the air and water in our communities.

You could say I was distressed by a report by the non-profit Sierra Club that mercury poisoning is disproportionately affecting Latinos. The primary culprit of this poisoning? Mercury emissions by coal plants that enter the food supply and is then ingested by unsuspecting Latino families, including children and pregnant women.

Read on:

Representatives from the Sierra Club warn that “Hispanics in the United States should be especially concerned about the fish that they catch, since many local waterways have high levels of mercury pollution.” Additionally, according to poll results: one-third of Latinos fish in freshwater lakes, where mercury pollution levels are significantly higher, thus increasing the likelihood of mercury exposure.

According to the report, 76 percent of Latinos eat the fish that they catch and 64 percent share what they catch with their families, which often include children and women of childbearing age – two of the most vulnerable populations at risk of mercury poisoning.

As I have mentioned here before, I grew up fishing with my dad in Miami, and our family ate what we caught. It is one of my fondest childhood memories of family meals together. Now, I cannot fathom feeding fish to my children, much less taking them fishing and eating what we caught. How sad.

Besides advocate for clean air on behalf of Moms Clean Air Force, I have also testified in Sacramento, California, to (unsuccessfully) change a rule practically mandating toxic flame retardants in baby products. The flame retardants, which animal studies have linked to cancer, neurological and reproductive disorders, are sprayed in  practically every foam product from couches to nursing pillows. These flame retardants easily leach onto dust, pet hair, and the crumbling foam of old products — surely, I am not the only one who used second-hand baby products! — making them easy to ingest by children.

I was turned onto this issue as an advocate for, but have continued following and writing about it even after that particular project expired. As a mom, it is disturbing to me that not only are companies allowed to pollute in our neighborhoods, but they are even allowed to sell us products with toxins like flame retardants. You could imagine my dismay when I learned that two states have passed laws increasing the amount of flame retardants in the foam of…school buses.

According to a recent e-mail by the Green Science Policy Institute, which is headed by a scientist whose work contributed to the phasing out of a cancer-causing flame retardant in children’s pajamas in the 1970s, the Bromine industry has succeeded in passing legislation for “severe flammability standards” for school bus seats in Maryland and in Nevada.

The…fire test of upholstered furniture required is typically met with levels of 40% or more of halogenated flame retardant chemical in foam and additional chemicals padded on the fabric.  
Children would be exposed to the toxic chemicals all the time they ride on school buses, while the fire safety benefit appears to be low. Children don’t smoke and in a large fire the retardants eventually will burn to produce high levels of toxic gases.

Wow. If there is any silver lining in these news stories, it is that parents ARE paying attention. I know that I am paying attention and acting. If you haven’t done so already, please join me and sign up at Moms Clean Air Force to let companies as well as legislators know that we are ALL paying attention. Dads are welcome too!


To Clean Our Air Is To Be Pro-Life

With all the political mudslinging, you would think that people of faith only care about two things: abortion and gay marriage.

As a practicing Catholic I tend to think the media portrays people of faith in black-and-white, which is why I was thrilled to see the Catholic Church remind parishioners — and the public! — that being “pro-life” also means ensuring that the unborn and the born have clean air to thrive.

Here is a letter by the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference in support of the EPA’s proposed standards to reduce mercury and air toxins produced by power plants:

While we are not experts on air pollution, our general support for a national standard to reduce hazardous air pollution from power plants is guided by Catholic teaching, which calls us to care for God’s creation and protect the common good and the life and dignity of human persons, especially the poor and vulnerable, from conception until natural death. As we articulated in Putting Children and Families First: “For generations, the Catholic community has reached out to children… We have defended their right to life itself and their right to live with dignity, to realize the bright promise and opportunity of childhood.”

Children, inside and outside the womb, are uniquely vulnerable to environmental hazards and exposure to toxic pollutants in the environment. Their bodies, behaviors and size leave them more exposed than adults to such health hazards. Furthermore, since children are exposed to environmental hazards at an early age, they have more extended time to develop slowly-progressing environmentally triggered illnesses…

A national standard limiting mercury and other toxic air pollution represents an important opportunity to protect the health and welfare of all people, especially our children and poor and vulnerable communities. Applying such a standard would reduce emissions of mercury from power plants by 91 percent marking a significant step forward. Some may attempt to weaken this proposed standard. However, we believe we ought to take prudent and responsible action to protect our children.

Faith-based organizations and families are a powerful coalition that not even the best-funded plants and their lobbyists can break. Let’s keep the momentum for this bill going. If you haven’t already done so, please join me at Moms Clean Air Force and write to the EPA in support of the proposed rule to reduce mercury and toxins in our air. Also pass the word onto your churches and communities! Thank you!


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

The Senate Environment and Public Works committee will be holding a hearing this morning on air quality and children’s health. Here is the live webcast. I will not be able to “attend,” but I did write a letter to my senator, who also happens to be the chairwoman of the committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer. Whether or not you are able to listen to the webcast, I highly encourage you to e-mail your senator. Clean air is not something we are entitled to. We must fight for it.

In related news, here is a Think Progress article on how cleaning up mercury and coal ash is good for our health AND not bad for the economy. Once again, here is that link to send a letter to the EPA in support of stricter mercury and air toxics standards.  

Katy Farber over at Non-Toxic Kids published a story on eco-friendly strollers.

This is awfully frustrating. Here is another hit piece on Planned Parenthood, this time in the Latino community. From the Daily Caller:

A Latino advocacy group is charging that abortion providers are targeting their communities, making their frustration known with a jumbo billboard campaign in Los Angeles, California.

“It’s clear that Latinos are being targeted by organizations that promote abortion like Planned Parenthood,“ said Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, the group behind the billboard. “Many of their clinics are in Latino neighborhoods and communities.”

Considering that 97% of Planned Parenthood’s services are basic needs like wellness checkups, my guess is that PP clinics are in our neighborhoods because WE ARE MORE LIKELY THAN ANY OTHER GROUP IN THIS COUNTRY NOT TO HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE. Got that? Yes, I am one of the numerous Latinas who goes to Planned Parenthood for a checkup when I have no health insurance. These clinics are also the only way some men and children in this country receive health care, too. To “Unidos Por La Vida,” I say, ¡Propagen el seguro médico para todos y no las mentiras!

My apologies for being absent on the site starting today. My husband and I are sneaking in a quick trip to Hawaii (Kuai), while abuelita, who got in last night from El Salvador, watches the kids. We get back Sunday night to get back on a plane Monday morning for Minneapolis (Netroots Nation). I look forward to seeing some of you there!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Flame Retardants: The Asbestos of Our Time?

(Pictured on right: My grandfather, Diego Batista Martinez, on one of his beloved ships. He died of Mesothelioma in April 2005 after years of exposure to asbestos in the shipyards.)

Every time I travel out east to visit my parents and grandmother I always think of my grandfather. Growing up, he was a second father to me, always present and supportive in every way. I will never forget the way he delighted in playing with my son, his first great grandson.

He never got to meet my four-year-old daughter as he died six years ago of lung cancer.

When I tell people this, they immediately assume that he smoked. No he did not. This was a man who took care of himself. He made sure to clock in his eight hours of sleep a night, eat healthy, watch his weight and even subscribed to a health and fitness magazine. In his late 70s, he was active, his olive skin hardly had any wrinkles, and his black hair was peppered only at the temples.

But then he was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, lung cancer due to asbestos that he was exposed to in the shipyards and manufacturing plants where he worked.

I would not wish this disease on anyone. He died in hospice care at my parents’ home, choking on his own blood. He spent the last few months of his life on an oxygen tank, which he wheeled around, as his breathing became labored.  

Asbestos, by the way, is used to prevent fires. Many workplaces, including schools, have attempted to phase out asbestos due to the number of Mesothelioma cases in the 1970s and in recent years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tried to ban it in 1989, but was overruled in court. Today workplaces and consumer products can still legally contain trace amounts of asbestos.

For me, this is outrageous and concerning. But as I have learned in recent years there are a host of other carcinogenic, fire-fighting chemicals to worry about: toxic and untested flame retardants.

The Green Science Policy Institute, which is headed by Arlene Blum, the scientist whose work contributed to the phasing out of a cancer-causing flame retardant in children’s pajamas in the 1970s, just uncovered some disturbing research. Her organization helped collect samples of the foam from 100 baby products, including changing table pads, nursing pillows and car seats. Researchers, lead by Heather Stapleton of Duke University, found that 36% of them contained the same chlorinated tris removed from children’s pajamas in the 1970s. A whopping 80% of the products contained toxic or untested flame retardants.

“I am always careful to protect my son,” Holly S. Lohuis, a marine biologist whose son had been biomonitored for toxic chemicals, said in a released statement. “I am heartbroken that at age four his levels of flame retardants are like those of an industrial worker.”

For Latino families, the results of this study are especially discouraging. Not only are our families exposed to toxic chemicals in the workplace, but according to this study, Mexican American schoolchildren in California have seven times the flame retardant level compared to children in Mexico. And just to show you how vulnerable their little bodies are, these same children had three times the level of flame retardants as their mothers.

This is disturbing as animal studies have linked flame retardants to cancer, neurological and reproductive disorders. The flame retardants easily leach onto dust, pet hair, and the crumbling foam of old products — surely, I am not the only one who used second-hand baby products! — making them easy to ingest by children.

What irks me most is these companies have managed to turn it around, claim their “fire safe” products are superior and even worth paying for. What they don’t display is the hidden cost for our children, our babies, in terms of their health.

Also, most fire victims — as many as 80% — die due to smoke inhalation rather than the actual flames. So why don’t we take a deep breath — a deep breath of fresh air that is — and take care of our lungs and that of our children. After witnessing our family’s exposure to the fire-fighting chemical, asbestos, I, for one, do not want to find out the longterm effect of toxic flame retardants in my children’s bodies.

Elisa Batista, who co-publishes the MotherTalkers blog, is also a proud contributor to the MomsRising and Moms Clean Air Force blogs. She dedicates this post to her late abuelo, Diego Batista Martinez.  


Got Allergies? It’s the Air That You’re Breathing

Ever since Ari was a baby he was a snorer. Every time my father visited, he would joke, “¡Tienes una sinfonía!“ You have a symphony!

At first DH and I laughed off the snoring as a quirk of our sweet, smart, and otherwise healthy boy. But it became an issue when teachers started commenting on how “tired” he looked during the day. Also, Eli, who he shares a room with, started crawling into our bed at night because his snoring would awaken her.

After consulting with Ari’s pediatrician, I took him to a nose and throat specialist thinking that he needed his tonsils and/or adenoids taken out. The specialist found somewhat enlarged tonsils, but not anything that required surgery. He then referred us to an allergy specialist.

Three doctors and 22 skin pricks later, the allergy specialist came back with a diagnosis: Ari is allergic to all grass, ragweed, another type of weed, and oak trees. Because it is spring, his allergies have been particularly bad and he is now on a nasal spray as well as children’s Claritin when he needs it. Ari loves insects and the outdoors that I am seriously considering allergy shots for him in the future. I can’t imagine locking him up every spring — windows and everything closed — which is pretty much a recommendation by WebMD.

I suspect that there is a genetic component to allergies as Markos is allergic to dust and dander. I do not have any allergies that I know of, but having lived in a Latino family in an urban setting almost all my life, I have been surrounded by friends and family with inhalers or pills to control allergies and/or asthma. And considering the uptick in both asthma and allergies — think the infamous peanut ban in schools nowadays — I am often left wondering what is going on here?

As it turns out, I am not crazy to think that we are seeing an uptick in allergies and it is caused by, drum roll please, environmental “changes.” Everywhere I turn, one of the top news stories, on the radio, on TV, on the Internet is how 2011 purports to be the WORST YEAR for allergies. Here is a FOX News story on it. Last year, I read a similar story in Time magazine on how last year’s WORST YEAR allergies were triggered by none other than…global warming:

As the climate warms, it is likely to favor trees that give off pollen — like oaks and hickories — over pines, spruces and fir trees, which don’t. By 2100, once relatively cool states in the Northeast — including Vermont, New Hampshire and New York — could have the sort of highly allergenic trees now seen in the hotter Southeast, as species migrate north to adjust to the heat.

Asthmatics will suffer as well — about 10 million Americans have allergic asthma, which is triggered by allergens. The condition tends to make people unusually sensitive to air pollution, and some studies indicate that pollution will worsen over time if fossil-fuel emissions aren’t curbed.

Even if one doesn’t believe in global warming, I want to point out that FOX News and Time are not exactly known for their liberal commentators. Also, there is no denying that there have been a lot of watery eyes and running noses lately. Not to mention we can no longer pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in our children’s lunchboxes, because all allergies, including food allergies, are deadlier and on the rise.

An estimated 3.9% of children and 2% of adults now have life-endangering food allergies, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A study released this week pegged the price of doctor visits, hospital care, and lost working days due to food allergies at $500 million a year.

Keep in mind that this data does not include non-food allergies like those of my husband and son. An estimated 60 million people in the United States suffer from asthma or allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. A whopping 90 percent of children have “allergic asthma,” in which asthmatic symptoms are induced by allergens such as pollens, mites or molds.

A disproportionate number of both asthma and allergy cases are urban Latinos. Here are two statistics in the Asthma and Allergy Foundation website that really spoke to me:

Hispanics may have an elevated risk for exposure to air pollution since a disproportionate number live in areas failing to meet one or more national standards for air pollutants. (It is estimated that 80 percent of Hispanics live in areas that failed to meet one U.S. EPA air quality standard, compared to 65 percent African Americans and 57 percent of Whites.)

Puerto Ricans may be at increased risk for multiple indoor and outdoor allergies compared to Whites.


This is the thing. Even if allergies were caused by genes alone, we can’t deny that air quality exacerbates these symptoms. I am now too painfully aware of this every time I hear Ari snore or see his nose running after playing outside. I am reminded of this each and every time he takes his medicine, which is every day, and probably for the rest of his life as the allergy specialist told me. We are officially part of the $18 billion spent every year on allergy treatment in the United States.

Do you or your children suffer from allergies? Then please join me and the Moms Clean Air Force in urging the EPA to strengthen our air quality laws. Having to lock up our kids to keep them healthy should not be acceptable to anyone.