Editor’s Note: This article was written for Mosaic Vision, an independent journalism training program for high school students who report and photograph stories under the guidance of professional journalists.

With California’s peak wildfire season over, people throughout the Bay Area are breathing a sigh of relief — and holding their breath until next year.

There is much to worry about with bad air, everything from asthma and allergies to cardiovascular problems such as elevated blood pressure, according to Mary Prunicki, senior director of air pollution health research at the Sean Parker center at Stanford University.

“The more you’re exposed, the shorter your life expectancy and decreased quality of life,” she said.

However, while everybody feels the impact of wildfires, low-income communities suffer the most from poor air quality.

“People of color are 61% more likely to live in areas with poor air quality,” Prunicki said.

That’s why I volunteered for an organization that is taking on this important issue. Helping underserved communities combat the effects of climate change is the mission of Climate Resilient Communities (CRC), an organization that brings air purifiers to homes in East Palo Alto, Belle Haven of Menlo Park, Redwood City and North Fair Oaks.

CRC partnered with Jewish congregations and Christian churches for its “Breath of Air” campaign, with the goal of raising funds to distribute 100 air purifiers to those with respiratory challenges.

So far, CRC has exceeded its goal by distributing over 150 air purifiers, according to CRC Program Manager Cade Cannedy, who said that providing these air purifiers is only the beginning of the organization’s effort to ensure that everybody has the right to clean air.

In many ways, the organization’s work is just getting started, Cannedy said.

“Wildfires are only going to make the situation worse and they’re going to compound the consequences of the pollution burden,” he said. “We need to be taking steps to mitigate those consequences for these frontline communities, and we need to be doing it with urgency.”

Distribution community leader Karen Williams, a Belle Haven native, joined the campaign because she knew many who could benefit from it.

“To be honest, I didn’t really know anything about air purifiers, but I knew a lot of people who needed them,” Williams said. “A lot of people have COPD breathing problems and struggle heavily.”

She was referring to chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases that block airflow and make breathing difficult.

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