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Marvin and his Sordid Asthmatic Past

The only known photo of Marvin Bloom

The only known photo of Marvin Bloom

Everyday I learn something new about Marvin Bloom, our roving reporter In his latest comic monologue, Marvin reveals details from his childhood that led to the family exodus from Brooklyn to Long Island. No it was not murderous Egyptians that made them take flight; rather it was pollution.

Does Marvin Blame his Mother for his Asthma Attacks?

Marvin talks about the triggers to his childhood asthma attacks, including the storytelling of his Aunt Sylvia, a holocaust survivor with a wicked sense of humor. He also shares new findings that show disturbing connections between pollution and pregnant mothers leading to asthma in babies and small children.

I particularly appreciate the environmental justice part of his short monologue. He highlights that neighborhoods where Black and Hispanic people live in NYC have worse pollution and correspondingly high rates of asthma in children and adults.

Funny, informative, and insightful. Check out Marvin’s audio journalism on his solid asthmatic past. (Full transcript below)

Your Moment with Marvin

Stairwell at MOMA PS1 (photo by p.toscano)

Stairwell at MOMA PS1 (photo by p.toscano)

Hi This is Marvin, Marvin Bloom, and this is your moment with Marvin.

Alright, so I live in Long Island, NY. It’s very nice. But I was born in Brooklyn. You could say I’m a refugee. I needed to find refuge from asthma.

I was a very happy kid growing up in Brooklyn. But I had asthma—bad. It was always there lurking in my lungs. Lots of things set it off. The mold in Grandma Bloom’s house. The car fumes from the BQE highway that loomed over us.

And then there was my Aunt Slyvia. She triggered my asthma all the time. It was her amazing sense humor when she told stories about how she escaped the Nazi’s dressed as a nun. She put a towel over her head as she prowled around the living room evading capture. I laughed so hard. But laughing like that wasn’t good for me. Her comedy stirred up my asthma. Well and her cigarette smoking didn’t help.

As a kid I also didn’t help matters much. I was very hyperactive. I ran around the house, there was too much pollution to play in the streets. Then I started wheezing. My airway became constricted. Swollen. It filled with mucus. I couldn’t catch my breath. One time I even passed out. I woke up in an oxygen tent in the hospital. My mother’s face was pressed up against the plastic like a mosquito trying to get at me.

After that my mother refused to let me run around. She would literally tie me to a dinning room chair. But I still had asthma attacks. I kept missing school. And I got behind. According to the Centers for Disease Control, because of asthma, there are more than 10 million lost school days every year. And adults lose over 14 million work days annually.

asthma_nylcvMy mom was beside herself. She kept saying to my father, ‘Saul, we need to get out of this neighborhood. It’s killing Marvin.’ Which was true—I regularly inhaled dust, soot, diesel exhaust, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide from coal-fired electric plants. This is what I was breathing in as a kid. And it triggered my asthma.

But it started even before sucked the bad air into my lung. When I was just a fetus breathing in amniotic fluid, the pollution got to me. A new study reveals Babies born to mothers exposed to air pollution from traffic during pregnancy have an increased risk of developing asthma before the age of six. If a woman lives close to a highway during pregnancy, her kid has a 25 percent increased risk of developing asthma before age 5.

For me it was bad. So when I was 9 years old we moved to Long Island. Even though it was a longer commute for my father and I left all my friends behind. But we were the lucky ones. We were able to get out. We found a neighborhood that was healthy that let us move in.

Lots of white families Christian and Jewish in the New York area can escape the pollution that causes asthma. In fact, white people in the NYC area breath in clearer air than Black and Hispanic people. Consider kids hospitalized because of Asthma. In New York City 43.7% of Hispanic kids 17 years and younger landed in the hospital with asthma. 72.8% of Black kids were hospitalized. And white kids? 9.5%. Look at the maps that compare asthma rates and New York neighborhoods. Disease increases with pollution. Ok.  And the pollution increases within Black and Hispanic communities. Their environments are severely toxic. That’s not right.

But here’s the good news. Real Climate action will immediately improve people’s health. We must Increase fuel efficiency in cars, drive less, stop burning coal in power plants Not only will it address climate change—it will give us cleaner air in every neighborhood and healthier bodies.

This is Marvin, Marvin Bloom. And This is your Moment with Marvin.


Author: Peterson Toscano

Peterson Toscano is a quirky queer Quaker concerned about Climate Change. His website is

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