My daughter Yisel suffers from very strong asthma attacks and when she has these episodes, we have to go to the emergency room. It is very difficult to see my daughter connected to oxygen, with so many wires, and they administer medicine and steroids every 15 minutes. Because of all the medication, my daughter’s body shakes, and as a mother it is very difficult to see this. I don’t want my daughter suffering.
I got involved with the Juntos program through my son, who started volunteering. I realized that it is a program that gives importance to the environment, which would greatly help my family. I know it’s important to make a positive change in my community, and reduce the rate of children and families with asthma.
A big cause of asthma is dirty, diesel school buses. In New Mexico, there are approximately 166,000 kids who ride school buses to over 89 school districts, which serve more than 300,000 students, over half of whom are children of color. With so many children exposed to pollution, it’s no coincidence that more than one in 11 suffers from asthma. Here in Bernalillo County, our air quality has been given a D by the American Lung Association.
Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency settled with Volkswagen over Clean Air Act violations after the car company cheated on clean air testing for their diesel vehicles. New Mexico is receiving nearly $18 million to allocate for projects that will reduce diesel emissions in our communities. This is why I am a part of the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign, an effort to call on Gov. Susana Martinez and the New Mexico Environment Department to use New Mexico’s settlement money to transition to clean, electric school buses. This would not only benefit our environment by reducing diesel emissions, but also would help the health of many children and families in our state.
The Environment Department is currently deciding how to spend the settlement funds and recently held meetings to gather input from the public. I attended the meeting in Albuquerque to share my thoughts. I invite all New Mexicans to join us in calling on Gov. Martinez and the Environment Department to open a formal public comment period to allow all families the opportunity to share feedback and urge these funds be used to transition from dirty diesel to clean, electric school buses. Together, we can help our children breathe easier.
Juntos: Our Air, Our Water is a program of Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund in partnership with Chispa. Juntos launched in 2014 to organize Latino families in Albuquerque to protect their air and water from threats of contamination, and to advocate for clean energy as a solution. Visit facebook.com/JuntosNM.