Letter: Bad air quality is hard on families with ‘preemies’

I am the mom of an energetic baby boy who adores going outdoors. Because of pollution, we have had to keep him inside.

My son was born prematurely at 27 weeks. Like many preemies, his lungs are injured from life-saving treatments in the NICU, and the airways in his lungs are smaller than most. He is at increased risk of developing asthma or experiencing wheezing, shortness of breath, phlegm, and chest discomfort because of wildfire smoke.

His lung condition has kept us hunkered down with his pediatrician’s instructions to avoid indoor gatherings. Until recently, we’ve been able to turn to outdoor spaces as a safe way to see family and friends. But when smoke started rolling into Utah this summer, the decision to go outside turned into another risk-benefit analysis with my son’s health on the line –something many preemie parents are all too familiar with.

We love being outside — it’s one reason Utah is a fantastic place to live. Now, we check the haziness of the skies before even thinking about venturing out. The smoke has been thick enough to keep anyone indoors, and the mountains that define our skylines have disappeared completely at times. Lately I have started to wonder what next summer will look like, and the one after that. I don’t want my son living in a Utah where he can’t see — and worse, can’t explore — the mountains.

As the climate continues to change, conditions in the West will only make better kindling for wildfires. Fortunately, there are low-cost solutions to climate change that will make fire seasons like this one less likely and even improve smog during inversions.

A carbon dividends plan would address both these challenges. I hope our representatives in Congress will act soon on market-based solutions like this to clean up the air for Utah families.

Samantha Sandstrom