Clear the Air

The Power of Mothers

In 2011, together with the Environmental Defense Fund, mom of two Dominique Browning founded Moms Clean Air Force: bloggers, field organizers, and parents (dads are welcome!) working to protect the air for children. The idea arose when Browning, the former editor-in-chief of House & Garden, started writing about issues like climate change. "Nobody was talking to people who don't think of themselves as environmentalists but who care deeply about kids' health," she says.

Her goal is to make that connection and to harness the considerable political power of moms' advocacy efforts. MCAF has more than 135,000 members already; their activities encompass education, letter-writing campaigns, and testimony in Washington. MomsCleanAirForce.org provides multiple ways parents can take action. For instance, you can write to President Obama or the Environmental Protection Agency and urge them to take steps to clean our air.

What You Can Do

  1. Get the air-quality forecast with an app from airnow.gov or lung.org, or a daily e-mail from enviroflash.info.
  2. Don't let kids -- especially those with asthma or other lung diseases -- play near high-traffic areas, or anywhere outside when pollution is high.
  3. Watch for warning signs of asthma. Kids may wheeze, cough, or just not be able to keep up with other kids when they're running around. Those with bad allergies or eczema may be particularly at risk for asthma.
  4. Drive with your windows closed on busy highways, in high-pollution areas, and on days when the air quality is low. Don't use vents that circulate outdoor air, either.
  5. Follow state-by-state fish advisories via fishadvisoryonline.epa.gov or your state's website.
  6. Don't burn trash, since the smoke releases toxic pollutants into the air.
  7. Encourage your school to stop buses from idling.
  8. Walk, bike, or carpool to cut down on auto emissions.
  9. Use hand- or electric-powered lawn mowers. Gas-mower engines often have no pollution-control device.
  10. Fill up your car after dark. Sunlight acts on the gasoline that evaporates in the air to cause ozone.
  11. Get involved. One big issue to weigh in on: a new set of emissions standards for vehicles (Tier 3 standards), which could reduce pollutants by as much as a third. This proposed set of rules needs support; momscleanairforce.org/action provides more info.

Originally published in the August 2013 issue of Parents magazine.

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