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Kids join to protest dirty air

Learning disability advocates, doctors and concerned families gathered at Anderson Bonner Park in North Dallas on October 11 to educate the public about the links between air pollution and learning and behavior challenges.

The Learning Disabilities Association of Texas hosted the Children’s Brains Need Clean Air media event, joining forces with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and Mom’s Clear Air Force to bring attention to the big problem of poor air quality affecting kids’ brains in North Texas. The group called for the EPA to maintain strong fuel efficiency and vehicle emissions standards and withdraw its proposed “dirty car” rule.

While the medical community and public have long understood that smog and ozone contribute to asthma and other respiratory illness,we now know that air pollution from vehicles and other sources harms children’s developing brains and contributes to life-long problems with learning and behavior.

 With the EPA poised to roll back vehicle emissions standards, the North Texas public spoke out. The EPA is taking comments on their proposed rule until October 26.

“Learning and developmental disabilities now affect 1 in every 6 children,” said Beth McGaw, President of the Learning Disabilities Association of America and Dallas mom. “Mounting scientific evidence shows that traffic-related air pollution can do lasting harm to brain development and increase children’s risks for learning and behavior disorders.”

Dallas has a growing traffic problem, and all that exhaust is affecting children’s ability to thrive and learn to their full potential. But the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to roll back standards that reduce air pollution. Their rule would make Dallas air dirtier.

Pam Smith, a member of the LDA-Texas Board, said, “I am the mom of two boys and both of my sons have learning disabilities and ADHD.  I am also a Registered Nurse and have worked in the healthcare industry with both adults and pediatrics for more than 35 years. We know more now on how much clean air Impacts the development of children’s brains, and that affects my family.”

“This summer, DFW air had more RED ozone days than in the past six years,” continued Smith, “and Dallas is already the 16th most polluted city in the nation for ozone according to the American Lung Association. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area and beyond, poor air can mean poor thinking. And for our children already struggling with learning challenges, this has an even bigger impact.”

Smith concluded by saying that “we’re here today with this great group of parents, kids, teachers, doctors and nurses to tell the EPA to keep the current vehicle emission standards. These clean car standards work to protect our children’s health and the health of all North Texas families.”

Dale Stovall, a local obstetrician-gynecologist and representative of ACOG, shared that mounting evidence links air pollution to neurological harm. “We have known for years that smog and ozone contribute to asthma and other respiratory illness,” he said. “More recently,mounting scientific evidence is linking traffic-related air pollution to decreased cognitive function and reductions in children’s IQ, memory and attention.In fact, a major Columbia University review of more than 100 peer-reviewed studies and reports correlates air pollution with a significantly negative impact on fetal and children’s brain health.

DeeDee Belmares, Texas Field Consultant with the Moms Clean Air Force, also shared her concerns, “My job is to protect my child from harm, but I can’t prevent him from breathing polluted air. I need the EPA to do its job so that my son and other kids are not exposed to pollution that will affect their ability to learn and grow. We do not want pollution that can damage our children’s developing brains.” She added that “cleaner, more efficient cars reduce air pollution and save us money at the pump.”

People are asked to visit ldatx.org and sign the petition to the EPA at http://bit.ly/EPAProtectOurAir