Concerned students gathered at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, on MU’s campus to demonstrate their support for asthma sufferers nationwide by coughing and “dying” in a cluster on the pedestrian pathway of Lowry Mall.
The students linked asthma problems to local causes such as the coal-fired power plants on MU’s campus and in the city of Columbia. They held signs saying things like, “Coal = 38,000 heart attacks per year” and “Coal = dirty air”. Passersby walked through Lowry, curiously reading the signs covering the “dead” bodies for several minutes before the group of about 20 people “came back to life” and continued on their way to class.
Many of the students had just come from Power Shift, a conference in D.C. centered on creating a clean energy economy. Power Shift attendee Sarah Johnson said, “We learned a lot about the harmful health effects of dirty energy on surrounding communities, and when we came back we really wanted to do something to convey that awful truth.”
The American Lung Association says that soot and smog cause asthma attacks, shortness of breath, permanent lung damage, and premature deaths. Coal-fired power plants around the country emit soot daily and are the second largest source of the nitrogen oxides that cause smog according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Ashley Frayne, a junior at MU, said, “I hope our die-in can bring attention to the human effects of coal, and remind people that we have a big health risk right on campus in the form of our coal-fired power plant.”
The entire month of May is Asthma Awareness Month. The EPA, who sponsors the national awareness effort, says there are about 25 million people effected by asthma in the U.S. and it costs about $20 billion a year in health expenses and lost productivity.