My life depends on having clean air to breathe. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) has already claimed 85 percent of my left lung. I'm not going to let it claim any more.

My ability to breathe literally depends on the quality of the air. I have been like a walking weather forecast machine ever since I was diagnosed with COPD nearly 12 years ago.

My friends know they can rely on me to let them know when summer heat and humidity will become oppressive, and when the outside air quality becomes bad. I keep a close watch on smog and ozone pollution, because air pollution makes it difficult and painful for me to breathe.

But sometimes, the most painful part of my disease is seeing how it affects other people. I've had to ask family members to extinguish candles at holiday dinners because the smoke irritates my lungs. I've had to ask for new servers in restaurants because a server's cologne or perfume makes it hard for me to breathe.It's not their fault. They have no idea how sensitive I am to smoke and fragrances, and other things like burning leaves or outdoor grills. I hate seeing the looks on their faces when I ask them to stop doing things they've always done, things they assume to be completely harmless.

That's why I support the American Lung Association and its fight for clean, healthy air for everyone. No one deserves lung disease. But a lot of people have it. Give them -- and me -- a helping hand and do your part to minimize air pollution. Contact your elected officials and let them know you expect them to support strong healthy air standards.

Paula Bowman Cummings

Yoe