Governor Rauner’s EPA is poised to eliminate air pollution safeguards that would allow THOUSANDS MORE TONS of air pollution into the air you breathe every year.

According to today’s Chicago Tribune, Illinois EPA and the state’s largest polluter, Dynegy. Inc. have been rewriting Illinois air pollution laws in secret since last year, and are now poised to propose a massive increase in how much pollution Dynegy’s EIGHT huge ancient coal power plants in Illinois would be able to emit.


As much as 10,000 TONS more smog and soot pollution than they are emitting now.


As early as NEXT YEAR.


The most likely reason is that Dynegy wants to run its cleanest coal plants – the ones equipped with modern pollution scrubbing equipment – LESS often, and wants to run its dirtiest most polluting coal power plants MORE. They could make more money by running their cheaper dirtier power plants, but YOU will wind up paying the price.

Whatever rollbacks the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Dynegy are able to force through will eventually have to get approval from state legislators before Dynegy would be allowed to run its dirtiest coal power plants more oftern – so YOUR legislators can help stop this attack on clean air.

You can take action! RHA has prepared an email that encourages legislators not to approve these rollbacks. Our e-advocacy system makes it easy for you to send the email directly to Governor Rauner and your legislators. Send your emails now.

For more information about RHA’s clean air initiatives, contact Brian Urbaszewski via email at [email protected] or by phone at (312) 628-0245.


Celebrating Tobacco 21 Success

Village of Maywood is recognized for raising tobacco purchase age.

RHA has presented the Village of Maywood with a Lung Health Champion award in recognition of its trailblazing Tobacco 21 ordinance. In May, the Village Board unanimously voted to raise the minimum legal age for tobacco product sales in the village from 18 to 21. The ordinance took effect immediately.

“Someone has to step up and take a stand and we, the village of Maywood have taken one… it’s to save a generation that’s coming behind us,” said Mayor Edwina Perkins at the time of enactment. The Institute of Medicine projects that Tobacco 21 could reduce overall smoking by 12 percent by the time today’s teenagers become adults.

It’s been a busy summer for Tobacco 21 advocates. In addition to Maywood, the villages of Berwyn, Buffalo Grove, Lincolnshire and Vernon Hills have adopted ordinances, bringing the total number of municipalities in Illinois to 11. This week, Lake County became the first in Illinois to raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes, tobacco products and electronic cigarettes to 21 in unincorporated areas of the county.

Want to bring a Tobacco 21 ordinance to your community? Contact Matt Maloney, RHA’s Director of Health Policy, via email at [email protected] or by phone at (312) 628-0233.

Tobacco 21 from Cook County Public Health on Vimeo.

Help Second Wind Raise Funds Through Hike for Lung Health

Charity Partner Second Wind Assists Lung Transplant Candidates & Recipients

Since the mid-1990s, the average number of lung transplants per year has grown from 400 to over 2,000. Second Wind Lung Transplant Association has worked to improve the quality of life for lung transplant patients, lung surgery candidates, people with related pulmonary concerns and their families, caregivers and friends since 1995.

Gracie Poole is a sweet 9 year-old who likes to dance and loves to learn. She also has a chronic lung disease and is actively waiting for a double lung transplant.

“There’s not that many organizations that provide financial assistance for lung transplant patients,” explains Gracie’s mother, Jennifer Poole. “The people at Second Wind were very encouraging because they were transplant recipients as well. They know that side of it.”

For families like the Poole’s, who relocated from Alabama to Houston in March to wait at Texas Children’s Hospital for Gracie’s lung transplant, the gas and grocery cards provided by Second Wind offered much appreciated support.

Each year, Second Wind is a Hike for Lung Health charity partner to raise funds to provide this kind of assistance to recipients, candidates and their families. With 400 members throughout the world, including the US, Australia, South Africa, the UK and Germany, Second Wind has small but powerful presence. Together, this year’s team has to date raised over $4,500 through Hike for Lung Health. These proceeds go to Second Wind’s Financial Assistance Fund.

Life while on the lung transplant list is unpredictable. Patients can be called in for a transplant at any time. The Poole family must always be ready to head out the door in case lungs become available for Gracie. In addition to financial support, Second Wind tries to be there for recipients as an emotional bedrock.

Cheryl Keeler, Second Wind board president, is a bilateral transplant recipient herself and joined Second Wind after using their helpline to gain background information on transplantation. “In addition to the helpline, we provide connections and information to members through our newsletter, Airways. The Hike for Lung Health provides much needed dollars that we in turn give to families like the Pooles,” Keeler shares.

Currently, Second Wind’s Hike for Lung Health team has 27 people. You can join them – in Chicago on Sunday, September 17 or as a Virtual Walker – to help raise funds to support those, like Gracie, who are waiting for a lung transplant.

The Poole family is grateful for Second Wind’s assistance, as the family needs all help available while they wait for Gracie’s new lungs. As Jennifer noted in a post to Caring Bridge, “Gracie is doing really well which is good. She needs to be the best she can be going into transplant… whenever that may be.”

Hike for Lung Health brings hundreds of people together at Lincoln Park each year to raise awareness and funds for healthy lungs and clean air. The one- or three-mile walk benefits organizations that support lung disease research, education programs and advocacy efforts. This year’s event is being held Sunday, September 17, 2017 and kicks off at 10:00 am. Pre-registration is $15. On the day of the event, registration is $20 and begins onsite at 8:30 am. Find more information about the Hike for Lung Health.

Gracie’s journey is being chronicled by her mother, Jennifer, on their Caring Bridge and Facebook pages.

Her Son’s Songs Push Esperanza Fe Borg

Esperanza has lived through the unthinkable. Six years ago her son, John, died of pulmonary hypertension.

This is how John described himself on Facebook: “I’m a pretty simple person to satisfy. Just surround me with good friends and good people, and what more could I want?”

John rarely complained after his diagnosis. As his condition progressed, John would casually mention that he needed to raise his feet, but nothing more. He even helped his friend move. Though able-bodied friends did not show up, John did. He tried to carry small items up the stars, and when he got too tired, he rested on their sofa. As he gained some strength back, he joked about the lightness of the furniture they carried. They said he made the move easier because he made them laugh.

Only once did he say this, “life sucks, I don’t want to have this disease.”

Esperanza told him, “If I could take this disease away from you, I’d take it in a heartbeat.”

Guitar and music were a way for John to relax. It was also a way for mother and son to connect. Esperanza had bought John his first guitar and taught him the basics. But he soon surpassed her skill to the point where she was asking him for advice. John also started singing and recording songs. Later, Esperanza downloaded his YouTube recordings.

John made an effort to travel the country even though he was sick. He elected an experimental treatment, both to be part of the search for a cure and also for freedom of movement. This allowed him to travel to concerts in every state, including Bonnaroo. An admirer of Incubus, Ray LaMontage and Ben Harper, John liked every genre and made friends with fellow music lovers all over the country.

As months passed into years, breathing and doing the activities he enjoyed became more difficult for John. Now attached to the intravenous medication he’d tried hard to avoid, traveling to concerts became a dangerous risk and he had to stop.

Around the same time, another blow hit the family. Esperanza was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now she was fighting for both of their lives.

One day while she was still on chemo, they both felt particularly ill. However, John was always looking to try new things and wanted a certain drink. Esperanza went to many stores looking for the brand even as the bottoms of her feet started hurting, a side effect of chemo. Esperanza finally returned home with the beverage in hand. To this day, she regrets remarking to him, “I hope you know, I had to go all over to get this.”

John said, “Mom, if I could do it myself, I would.”

Even as John’s mobility became limited, Esperanza knew that he could still find joy in his music. In August 2011, he saw a guitar gleaming in the storefront window with a price tag of $2,500. Esperanza agreed that he could have it for his approaching birthday. “Okay,” John had smiled, “but can I have it now?”

“I was glad that I bought it that day,” Esperanza remembers. “He was able to play it twice.”

By Thanksgiving Day of 2011, John’s condition had deteriorated. He asked if he could stay out of the ICU until after Thanksgiving, but this was no longer possible. For John it wasn’t imaginable to be apart from his friends and family on the holidays. Those who knew him understood that he could fill a stadium with his talent. As it was, he filled a whole room in the ICU with those who cared about him.

John struggled to talk, and as the night wore on, even to breathe. He leaned forward to a friend to share an inside joke. Memories closed the gap of what he no longer had the energy to express. It was his old fallback: even as he struggled, John understood that they could still laugh. There wasn’t enough strength left to do much else. Still, he didn’t complain.

When John passed, his group of friends attended his funeral. “I’ve never seen young men cry,” Esperanza recalls.

In the weeks that followed, Esperanza had a difficult time leaving the house. Eventually she joined a number of support groups. In 2012 she found a program called 9 to 5 – a 9-week prep program for a 5K race. Esperanza didn’t socialize much at first. But eventually she began to open up about her reason for running – John.

“Talking about him was a way that I was able to go on. He loved life. I should continue to do things and enjoy whatever life has to give me. That’s how he would want me to live and that’s how he would live. There’s so many things we wanted to do when he got better. He wanted to travel more. He wanted to go to Europe. And hike. I’m doing this for him now. I carry him with me. He’s my strength to keep me going. To do the things that life is giving me.”

John’s friends and Esperanza meet every year on his birthday, which is near Esperanza’s birthday as well. Now they call it “everybody’s birthday” and use the day to celebrate life the way that John did.

“His friends have become my family now. When there’s a wedding… three weddings now,” Esperanza gives a quiet laugh as she considers this. “One of them has a child. His friends invite me. Any kind of event that’s going on, they invite me. They don’t feel sorry for me. They accept me. I’ve become John for them.”

“Just love life. Whatever life puts in front of you. Sickness, whatever it is. Just continue living like today is your last day. Sometimes it’s easier said than done,” Esperanza admits.

As time passed, Esperanza progressed from 5Ks to marathons. John’s YouTube recordings have found permanence on her iPod. On marathon day, her son will sing: not to the crowd, but as part of a conversation, mother-to-son, encouraging her through her earbuds to embrace each step of the 26.2 miles.

“I’m able to walk and run, so I do it. And I do it for him. Because if he were able to do it, he would.”

Visit Esperanza’s fundraising page to support her goals.

Spots for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon are gone but you can still make every step of your next race count. Join the Lung Power Team for some great benefits. You can help RHA achieve healthy lungs and clean air for all!


Dr. Cory Sellers is Running on Love

All the text said was “Call us.”

Dr. Cory Sellers knew right away that something was wrong. He had always been close with his parents, and their interactions were normally warm and conversational. But nothing about the past few months had been normal.

It had started with a cough in October of 2016. A primary care physician believed Dr. Sellers’ mother had allergies. Her diagnosis then progressed to pneumonia — a risk among seniors in the winter months. Now his mother was on oxygen, on her birthday, awaiting a pulmonologist’s assessment.

When Cory called his parents back, his shock swallowed his hope for happy news. It was the worst possible diagnosis – stage 4 lung cancer with pleural effusion. The family was devastated.

At 77 years-old, Shirley Sellers had never smoked. Still an avid runner, she was in good shape. In fact, nothing about her life added up to a lung cancer diagnosis.

“I watched this really strong woman — she was the oldest in her family, had younger brothers, grew up on a dairy farm — this was the woman who raised me. To see her collapse under the weight of the diagnosis… you go through the “why her?”

Growing up, both Cory and his mom scuffed their shoes on a baseball diamond. “When I was a Little League pitcher I was so nervous,” Cory chuckles. “She’d come out and practice with me before the game. She had this old Babe Ruth 1920s glove. It was like her pet glove. It had been so beat up that it didn’t have any padding in the palm,” he laughs.

That glove was a relic from Shirley’s childhood, when she took the hard work and pluck that she’d learned on her family’s dairy farm and applied it to a bevy of skills – including developing her pitching arm at a time when participation in sports was exceptional for a young girl.

When the pulmonologist gave her a terminal diagnosis, Shirley and her family became determined to find a way to save her. His sister Kimberlee took care of the day-to-day visits to their mother. Cory — working out of his practice several time zones away in Springboro, Ohio — provided a clear head as their family launched into a search for an alternative solution.

“I felt as though I had to help with the attitude department,” Cory says. “Let’s wait until we get more information, let’s wait until we find out.” He treats patients with significant injuries and who have gone through cancer and knows the value of perspective.

After consultation with an oncologist, they were suddenly renewed with hope. That doctor told them Shirley qualified for gene therapy, and which she began immediately. Gene therapy has been a promising development in the quest for a lung cancer cure, but as a new advancement, it is accordingly expensive. “Fortunately my parents had the wherewithal to stand for that,” Cory acknowledges.

During this process, Cory flew out to Salt Lake several times. The last of these visits was the final time that Cory saw his mother. Just 10 days after beginning gene therapy, the malignant cells invaded the wall around Shirley’s heart. She died of a heart attack.

“My mom had a running partner and they would run about 3 miles every day. Where my parents lived, they would go hiking and skiing in the mountains as well. As she got older, some of those things declined, but the running continued.”

Cory has undertaken his mother’s legacy: one of an adventurous woman who worked hard to set and meet goals for herself. “If you look at the long mile, you’ll be intimidated. But if you break it up, then you’ll reach the end point.”

On his first Mother’s Day without Shirley, Cory was distracting himself by perusing race information for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Fittingly, he found the Lung Power Team. “RHA benefits the Chicagoland area, but I’d like to think that on the greater whole, it benefits everybody. My mom was a runner. This was an easy find to think of Mom.”

Visit Cory’s fundraising page to support his goals.

Spots for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon are gone but you can still make every step of your next race count. Join the Lung Power Team for some great benefits. You can help RHA achieve healthy lungs and clean air for all!

Matt Cantu Runs for His Family

Matt Cantu has lots of good reasons to run with RHA’s Lung Power Team, but initially, he was worried about fundraising.

Now, he’s over 75% of the way to his $1,500 goal.

His first donors were his wife’s parents. Then, Matt put out a request for donations on social media, but he did more than just copy and paste a link. He made his posts – including the message on his Lung Power Team fundraising page – a testament to his decision to run the Chicago Marathon.

“Make sure you write something about why you care,” Matt advises.

Matt is as green to marathons as he is to the world of fundraising. But his reasons for running are rooted in respect for family and his health. Remembering the why helps him tackle these new challenges.

“If you’re not listening to anything while you run, you play things in your mind. It’s easy to give up until you remember all of the reasons why you’re doing it. It helps you to keep going.”

His reasons include his wife, Megan, who lives with asthma and sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis involves collections of cells that inflame organs in the body, including the lungs. Four years ago, she struggled to breathe. Her symptoms improved dramatically with medical care and a healthier, more active lifestyle.

Although her experience isn’t typical of many people living with sarcoidosis, and she still has both conditions, she’s running 5Ks now.

When she first invited Matt to join her last year, running was painful, but he continued to work hard to improve his running times. Now Megan – who Matt describes as his best friend – is always there to support him for his races.

Although racing is a fun challenge and a bonding activity for them both, they carry a sense of responsibility to stay healthy for themselves and their family – because Matt also runs in remembrance.

Megan’s grandfather, Robert E. Lundberg, lost his life to lung cancer last June.

“He was a Vietnam Vet; that was something that he was really proud of. He wore his Vietnam hat every day; he walked the lifestyle of a soldier. When that disease took over him… to see his body just go down…” Matt trails off in thought.

Robert was a longtime smoker. Though he battled bravely, his health continued to deteriorate. After witnessing this painful progression, as well as the decisions of other family members to become healthier and quit smoking, Matt decided he wanted to get more fit. He believes that if more people witnessed a loved one go through what Robert did, they would make the same choice.

“He went from a really strong man to someone who couldn’t do anything. It was a sad thing, but I always try to learn from every situation that I’m in.”

Matt personalized his Lung Power Team fundraising approach by sharing Megan and Robert’s stories. This helped his network connect their support to RHA’s efforts, such as helping people quit smoking through Courage to Quit and funding lung cancer research. Many have already joined Matt in making a difference as he prepares to run the Chicago marathon on October 8, 2017.

Visit Matt’s fundraising page to support his goals.

Spots for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon are gone but you can still make every step of your next race count. Join the Lung Power Team for some great benefits. You can help RHA achieve healthy lungs and clean air for all!


Fisk & Crawford Coal-Fired Power Plants Closed August 2012.


Five years ago this month, Respiratory Health Association helped secure the closure of Chicago’s two biggest polluters, the coal-fired Fisk power plant located in Pilsen and the Crawford plant in Little Village.

Together they emitted thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) every year, forming ozone smog and fine particle pollution. Their closures have saved an estimated 210 lives, prevented 330 heart attacks and avoided 3,600 pollution-caused asthma attacks – notable health victories worth celebrating at this five-year anniversary mark.

Years of effort by RHA’s staff and advocates as well as our Chicago Clean Power Coalition partners, working with the Chicago City Council and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, made these victories possible.

Of course, once the confetti was swept up we got right back to work.


Since that time we have achieved additional air quality improvements through our clean energy policy work and by educating individuals, business leaders and elected officials about clean-running vehicles and clean construction policies. Last year, RHA helped pass the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), making Illinois a nationwide leader in clean energy by expanding clean renewable solar and wind energy, reducing the use of coal and enacting better energy efficiency policies, all of which will lead to cleaner air.

Unfortunately, dirty coal plants continue to operate in Lake and Will counties as well as downstate, degrading air quality across the region. We are continuing our long-term legal and policy change strategies to combat these polluters. You can help RHA achieve our vision of clean air for all: donate now and sign up for RHA’s e-advocacy team to be part of our efforts.