Black folks are more likely than others to live in polluted environments and experience poor respiratory health in the United States.
As urgent as it is, air pollution isn’t a problem we can reverse overnight — but we may be able to stop its impact on our bodies.
Bestselling author and pastor Touré Roberts and biomedical engineer Dr. David Edwards believe they’ve found a simple solution that can enhance how well we breathe, and even how well we live.
Edwards’ invention — FEND — is a personal handheld mister that releases a saline solution, or a sea salt and water mix. In his research, he discovered salt from the ocean, or by the sea, can help fully hydrate the upper airways when mixed with water, which is necessary to help the body filter polluted air.
The former Harvard University professor says that for every decade of fine particles, or tiny solid matter, we breathe in, we lose a year from our lives.
“We’re losing, in some places, tens of years of life by the air we breathe,” Edwards says about how pollution impacts our health.
Cities heavily populated with Black people, like Houston and Los Angeles, ranked most polluted in the U.S. in the American Lung Association’s 2022 “State of the Air” report. A portion of children and adults in both cities suffer from asthma.
This is why Edwards and Roberts have partnered to get FEND into the hands of folks who need it most, including the Black community.
When inhaled, the ultra fine FEND mist travels throughout the upper airways, acting as a defense against dirty air by hydraying the respiratory system.
Roberts, who uses the product himself, says he “always thought that attacking the harmful effects from the environment needed to start with the environment.”
“I didn’t realize that you could actually start it from the individual level and begin to mitigate some of the harmful effects at the individual level, which has more of an immediate impact,” he told Word In Black in a video interview.
Roberts, the son-in-law of Bishop T.D. Jakes and pastor of The Potter’s House at ONELA, alongside his wife Sarah Jakes Roberts, said it’s especially important that FEND reaches people of color and children.
As a kid growing up in South Los Angeles’ Watts community, he remembers living in an environment impacted by pollution.
“There was a factory less than a mile — multiple factories — less than a mile from my house and a train that drove down my street. So, the reality of it is, people in Black and brown communities not only have this health challenge that everybody has, but they are disproportionately affected,” he says.
And as a spiritual leader, Roberts feels it’s his responsibility to help others be in good health, so they can live full lives.
“I believe in a holistic approach to even my spirituality. If my body isn’t good, I can’t fulfill my purpose,” Roberts says.
Roberts and Edwards officially launched their partnership on July 17. Together, they’re working to increase the number of people using FEND, which is currently around 300,000.
The team has a special emphasis on reaching children worldwide — over 90% of whom breathe toxic air daily.
“Particularly starting with kids, we can save productive lives in those kids’ reality and have a really massive impact for good here in the United States and in the world,” Edwards says.