Regional quality of air needs to be addressed

Photo: Center for Health Journalism.
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A Letter to the Editor:

When we say that something is “like breathing,” we usually mean that it’s easy– that it’s something we do without even thinking about it.

But what about those who do have to think about it? According to the 2019 report from the Southern California Association of Governments, 12.2% of Riversiders have asthma. That’s nearly 40,000 people in our city alone. 

This isn’t just a statistic. It gets personal for me when I find myself doing a breathing treatment with my toddler after yet another trip to the emergency room. It gets personal when air alerts warned me that our poor air quality made it unsafe for my daughter to play outside 1 in every 3 days last month. 

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This isn’t just about my child. For 19 of 20 years running, our region holds the reigning title for worst air quality in the nation according to the American Lung Association. Truck traffic to and from the warehouses that pop up in our neighborhoods, and smoke from wildfires contribute to the smog which contributes to our high rates of asthma. At the local level, near my neighborhood, this looks like our city council recently approving a 308,000 square-foot warehouse across from a soccer field where children play. 

May is Asthma Awareness Month. I am calling for brave municipal policies, thoughtful land-use decisions, and coordinated regional action to address the quality of our air. Until this is “like breathing,” it will most certainly take every single one of us to protect our kids and our communities.

By Erin Edwards, Community Advocate & Riverside resident

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