My concerns over climate change and poor air quality and their impacts on kids are personal. My son was born in the spring of 2007, just a few months before what would be an exceptionally hot and smoky summer in Western Montana. Before my son could crawl, he was in the ICU several times for respiratory problems. Over time, with experience and prescriptions for a nebulizer and inhalers, we seemed to have things under control. In fact, over the years, the need for treatment and use of inhalers became less and less. Thankfully, my son is otherwise healthy and incredibly active.
No one was prepared for the wildfire smoke that inundated the Missoula Valley in the summer of 2017. We returned to Missoula in early August from visiting friends and family back east to Armageddon-like conditions. We heeded the air quality warnings from the local health department and essentially stayed indoors for most of the month to keep our son out of the smoky air. But when school started, conditions were no better, and there was as much smoke inside the school as there was outside. Before that summer, my son only occasionally needed to use his inhaler, but since that summer – and the significant smoky air we all inhaled - the gains we made in managing my son’s respiratory problems were lost, and he now uses his inhaler nearly every time he is active, which is between 4 and 7 days a week.
It’s hard not to imagine a connection between the prolonged exposure to very poor air quality and my son’s now worsened respiratory condition, and recent research only confirms this. One of the top reasons we live in Western Montana is the outdoors, and summers are a particularly amazing and special time. But with more summers like the summer of 2017, we would need to rethink our decision. People may continue to debate whether climate change is man-made, but the impacts on our health are real and are happening now. The stakes are too important not to take immediate and bold action.
First published: May 23, 2019