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Of vital importance: The air that we breathe


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THINKSTOCK.COM
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Date published: 2/19/2013

It's tempting to tune out the news of Congress' fights over taxing and spending, but while we may be sick of hearing about it, we or our loved ones may end up sicker if we don't speak up.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 20 million American adults and 7 million American children carry the diagnosis of asthma. The quality of the air we breathe should not be a political issue.

Although Congress managed to temporarily avert the fiscal cliff, its work is far from finished. Our representatives must now work to avoid big, automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that could have serious impacts on our lungs and the air we breathe.

According to the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents air pollution control agencies in city and state governments across the country, more than $100 million in budget cuts to EPA's air program are on the table. Much of that will come out of EPA's budgets for enforcement and state and local pollution monitoring.

We can't protect ourselves from dangerous air pollution without knowing what's in our air. Our closest air pollution monitoring station in Stafford County detects daily smog levels. Without this data, we can't make informed decisions on how much time it's safe to spend outside.

In my practice at Allergy Partners of Fredericksburg, many of my patients with asthma must be especially careful to limit their exposure to smog. The work that EPA does to monitor pollution levels, and to enforce rules that keep pollution in check, is crucial to their health.

Our elected officials must remember that monitoring air pollution and enforcing limits on it aren't about politics, they're about public health: $100 million in cuts means more asthma attacks, more missed days of work and school, and maybe even more premature deaths due to dangerous pollution.

Tell Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Rep. Rob Wittman that maintaining the quality of air is of vital importance.

Jonathan Mozena, M.D.

Fredericksburg

Allergy Partners of Fredericksburg