mixed greens

What to get for Mom

Posted 5/8/24

Mother’s Day is upon us, and it’s hard to know what to get for this very important person in our lives. My inbox is flooded with suggestions. Brunch, jewelry, a spa day, perfume, garden …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
mixed greens

What to get for Mom


Mother’s Day is upon us, and it’s hard to know what to get for this very important person in our lives. My inbox is flooded with suggestions. Brunch, jewelry, a spa day, perfume, garden tools—you name it, it’s “the perfect gift.” 

But what would really make Mom happy? My own mother favored practical gifts over luxurious fluff. Looking back, I remember her joy in relating to my brothers and me as individual personalities with different needs and strengths. She could be surprisingly fierce on our behalf when her voice was needed—a proto-mama bear. What made her happy was the knowledge that we were safe and thriving.

I’ve been thinking about her as I’ve been learning about the Moms Clean Air Force, an advocacy group dedicated to ensuring that all mothers and children have a chance to thrive. With a national membership of 1.5 million volunteer moms and dads, they are working to reduce air pollution, promote environmental justice, address climate change and reduce exposure to toxic chemicals such as PFAS, phthalates and other endocrine disruptors in everyday products such as construction materials, cleaning and personal care products, toys and clothing. 

The nearly 67,000 members of the New York State chapter are working with mayors and town governments to address air pollution and climate change through local initiatives aligned with the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. They are also focused on environmental justice communities across the state, working to reduce air pollutants such as ground-level ozone, which interferes with normal lung development in infants and children and can trigger asthma attacks and upper respiratory infections. 

The Pennsylvania chapter has more than 104,000 members. Their campaigns range from promoting electric school buses to helping communities demand corporate accountability. They cover two major fronts: communities affected by ongoing pollution from oil and gas exploration—including fighting for the capping of the more than 350,000 abandoned wells across the state—and helping lead the Shell Accountability Campaign, which is demanding better environmental controls and transparency at Shell’s huge Beaver County plastic plant near Pittsburgh. In its first year of operation, the plant has racked up numerous notices of violation for illegal levels of toxic emissions. 

Who better than moms to lead this fight? Many of these pollutants affect women’s health disproportionately, especially reproductive health. PFAS, the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as “forever chemicals,” are becoming ubiquitous in drinking water and in the materials of everyday life. The chemicals are believed to decrease fertility and contribute to pregnancy-related hypertension and pre-eclampsia, which can be fatal to both mother and infant. 

Recent research at the University of California at San Francisco, funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the EPA, found PFAS in the blood of all 302 pregnant women who participated in the study, and in the umbilical cord blood of their babies. And while we are just beginning to understand the potential health impacts of microplastics, a new study by Italian scientists has suggested a connection between the presence of micro- and nanoplastics in arterial plaque and an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. 

A research study from the University of Michigan published earlier this year found that exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulate matter PM2.5—both products of combustion including the burning of fossil fuels—can disrupt hormone production during women’s transition in menopause. That accelerates estrogen decline and intensifies symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, sleep issues and memory problems.

The equity issue is huge. The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, and African-American women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. Numerous studies have shown that low-income and minority families are more likely to be exposed to environmental toxins, to live near polluting industrial facilities, and to get their drinking water from systems that do not meet the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act. 

It seems as though many of the politicians who are most determined to control the rights of mothers are also the ones who take a laissez-faire attitude toward the polluters who endanger pregnant women’s lives and the health of their babies. Moms who want to change that deserve our support.

mothers day, moms clean air force, mixed greens


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here