AS AN asthmatic who frequently roams the streets of Philly in search of entertainment, the Supreme Court's recent verdict on the Clean Air Act had special relevance.

Clean air is very important to those with allergies and asthma because what causes most people to merely sneeze, like pollen, can cause asthmatics and people with major allergies to have serious difficulty breathing.

But the annoyance of pollen pales in comparison to the general lack of quality and cleanliness of the air in Philly. While you might expect that cities, as a rule, have much higher air pollution rates than do most suburban areas, Philadelphia's air seems to have taken that idea to extremes.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation named Philadelphia America's No. 2 "asthma capital" of 2007. That means there's only one city in the country where the air is worse than in Philly. We can and should do better, and it shouldn't only matter to those of us who suffer from allergies and diseases. Clean air can be beneficial to even the healthiest of people - breathing smoke and dust just isn't pleasant.

If we're truly interested in improving the quality of life in Philly, improving the air may well be the first step, since it's always true that when people are healthier, they are also happier.

Rohan Maitra