This year, my daughter is entering 9th grade and taking the bus alone to her new high school in South Philadelphia.

Aside from the usual feelings parents have during back-to-school season, especially in a year when my child is making a huge transition, I have added concerns. Like me, my daughter has asthma, and pollution from cars and trucks — including the diesel-powered SEPTA bus she will take to school every day – can exacerbate her symptoms and trigger dangerous asthma attacks.

My daughter and I are, unfortunately, not alone. We share this disease with more than 25 million Americans, including 21% of Philadelphia’s children. As a parent, it has been painful to watch my daughter spend weeks recovering from a mild cold, or to hear her say that she was afraid to run with her friends at school because she didn’t want to trigger an attack.

Our family does not own a car and has no plans to buy one, but that doesn’t mean we’re protected from tailpipe pollution. On the contrary, we breathe in pollutants every time we go outside. If anything exacerbates Philly’s already poor air quality — like a heat wave, for example — it could mean rearranging an entire day, skipping a trip to the store, or avoiding after-school activities that require extra time walking. These considerations make our lives tricky when we have to get to work and school on foot or via public transportation.

Philadelphia recently received another “F” for air quality in the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report because our air is so unhealthy. And this pollution is not equitably distributed — nationwide, people of color are over three times more likely to be breathing polluted air than white people. Black and Latino children in Philadelphia are hospitalized for asthma at roughly five times the rate of their white peers.

Source link