I walked inside my house and wondered at the thick fog that greeted me, and my already struggling lungs registered the smell of something much more than smoke; something so toxic that I could taste it on my teeth. This clearly was not just ordinary garbage burning.
As a person with respiratory issues in the form of asthma, I react even worse than persons with healthy lungs to things like smoke, perfume, dust and even the exhaust from motor vehicles. However, when you leave the street and come home to what should be your sanctuary away from all that is “out there,” you don’t expect, want, intend or deserve to enter into the inner sanctum of your house and not be able to breathe.
But even as I struggle to catch each breath, I think that if I live off the Boulevard, but closer to the Molynes Road area, on the side that is closer to the Red Hills area, and the smoke is affecting me this much, then what, oh what of those people living next to and nearer to the dumps every time they are ignited?
Every time this happens, I feel the need to have myself turned inside out, and my entire insides power-washed so I can go back to breathing properly again. My eyes burn and my chest hurts and my seemingly non-stop cough hurts both my throat and my very sore chest and I feel as if I am under water and about to drown, and no amount of wet rag over my nose does anything at all to ease my discomfort. I eventually have to leave in order to breathe, as I feel as if I am about to take my last breath soon.
When will enough EVER be enough???? We continue to be a country of reaction; never of prevention, and no matter how bad the recurring issue, it’s always like “nine (9) days’ love,” as my mother would describe anything that caused excitement for a little while, and then died down as if it had never occurred after the nine (9) days. Where is the political will to ensure that the inhabitants of this country are no longer exposed to this serious threat to our health? How hard is it to ensure that there is proper security around these sites so that this longstanding issue stops recurring? Is it because our “leaders” do not have to endure it because they do not live close enough to have to inhale stuff that has no business entering their lungs? Once should have been more than enough for the necessary security to have been put in place, so as to prevent the numerous reoccurrences of the lighting of these dump sites. Yet, here we are, still living with the possibility of this happening again and again.
Not only has it caused ill-health and the loss of school and productivity hours since schools and offices have had to close down, it has also caused loss of life. I went to purchase tyres for my car last week, and as I sat waiting to receive them, I overheard a telephone conversation, the gist was that one of their customers, who had come in to purchase tyres for her car a week ago, was rushed to the hospital the night before because the smoke from the fire at the Riverton dump had triggered her asthma, and sadly, she did not survive it. I felt the tears sting the back of my eyes for this stranger; but then, I thought, how “strange” is she really, when she was a fellow Jamaican, a fellow woman and a woman who like myself, was asthmatic? I felt white hot anger and deep sadness simultaneously, and my heart broke for her and what I knew must have been her terrible struggle to breathe in her final hours, and I felt my lungs tighten in adverse reaction. I allowed the tears to fall as I drove away from the tyre store; crying for that Jamaican woman who lost her life, crying for others who will also lose theirs if this continues, and crying for myself and my beautiful island home where this is allowed to happen over and over again, with what seems to be no end in sight.
I add my voice to those who have been crying in the proverbial wilderness for years. “I can’t breathe!!!!!!!!!!”and breathing SHOULD be a RIGHT, and not a privilege. FIX IT NOW!!!! We DESRVE the RIGHT to clean air; not polluted air that is making us sick and either quickly, or slowly killing us!!