Air Quality and Kids: How to Keep Them Safe from Pollution

For parents and their children, summertime means plenty of outdoor physical activity. Unfortunately, long, hot days can lead to high levels of air pollution due to serious natural disasters such as wildfires. Therefore, it is important to plan outdoor activities with environmental conditions in mind.  Below we look at the causes and effects of air pollution, the importance of different alert levels for dangerous days, and different steps you can take to protect your loved ones from hazardous air pollution. 

Air Pollution Affects Children Before They Are Born

Air Quality and Kids

Dirty air breathed by a woman during pregnancy harms the health of her unborn child, leading to lifelong health problems and reduced quality of their adult life. Such a statement was made by researchers from Imperial College London. 

The authors of the London study noted that it is virtually impossible for a woman living in a big city to avoid polluted air during pregnancy. They called on governments to take urgent measures to reduce pollution from transport and other sources. 

However, dirty air in London leads to low weight in only 2.5% of babies. According to the WHO, globally, 90 percent of all children, approximately 2 billion, are exposed to polluted air. Researchers from the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) stated that 17 million children breathe air whose pollution is six times higher than international standards for toxicity. Twelve million of these children live in South Asia. 

The results of the British scientists' study force a renewed focus on life in major cities around the world, such as India's Delhi, where air toxicity is much higher than in London. 

Air Pollution Limits Lung Growth in Children

British scientists have found out how air pollution affects the health of children. The study involves almost 3.5 thousand schoolchildren. For this purpose, in the center of London, they created "an area of ultra-low emissions of harmful substances", which, according to the authors of the project, is designed to help clean the dangerously polluted air and improve public health. 

Air Quality and Kids

These small devices are called activity monitors. They show how much air pollution harms children's health. You can also use them to find out if they would feel better if the air was cleaner. It is children who suffer most from exhaust fumes, say researchers at the Queen Mary University of London. Air pollution impairs the development of children's lungs, which seriously threatens their lives. In addition, bad ecology can cause asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Cleaning Up Pollution Can Reduce Risk to Children

There are a variety of illnesses that occur as a result of constantly being in a place with low air quality. Typical illnesses include asthma, sore throat, irritation of mucous membranes in the nose and eyes, chronic and acute respiratory disease, lung cancer, heart disease, and decreased fertility. 

Certain groups of people are particularly susceptible to air pollution: children, pregnant women, the elderly, people with heart disease, and people who already have respiratory disease. A number of factors can also further increase the risk of disease: genetic predisposition, unhealthy lifestyles, and poor diet. 

The six benefits of purified air are:

  1. Airborne pollutants are removed and the burden on the human body is reduced: Quality of daily life is increased.

  2. Allergic reactions are minimized or eliminated: People with asthma or allergies can breathe easily.

  3. The indoor air is perceptibly fresher, cleaner, and more pleasant to breathe: Fresh air for a healthier life.

  4. Fatigue is reduced and concentration is increased: more energy to work and do anything.

  5. Reduces the risk of respiratory illnesses: safer air.

  6. Dusty air is purified: the air is fresher and healthier, there is no feeling of mustiness.

In addition, unfortunately, more and more people suffer from allergies, heart and respiratory diseases caused by air pollution. Today 20% of the world's population suffers from allergic diseases, and the trend is growing. More and more cities are reporting smog (both summer and winter), and the established limits for particle pollution are increasingly being exceeded. 

How can we prevent bad air quality?

One of the most effective ways to protect your child from exposure to air pollution is to monitor the AQI (Air Quality Index) levels in your community and follow outdoor physical activity guidelines regarding sensitivity levels. 

Physical activity can result in 10 to 20 times more air consumption than resting levels, increasing the number of air pollutants entering the body.

You can also find regional air quality organizations for more information on air pollution problems. 

On days when outdoor air quality is particularly bad, such as during the peak of wildfires or smog, take the following precautions:

  • Communicate with your child's doctor to create a "daily action plan" for asthma. Make sure your child's school is aware of the"action plan" and can act accordingly.

  • Set the HVAC(filters) to re-circulate or close outdoor air intakes to prevent pollutants from entering your home.

  • Minimize indoor sources of air pollution, such as burning wood or candles, smoking cigarettes, spraying aerosols, or frying meat.

  • Use an air purifier to remove airborne pollutants from your home.

  • Adults may wear respiratory masks. This does not preclude other methods of air quality control. Masks are not recommended for children because they may not fit properly and thus affect a child's ability to breathe. If the air quality is so poor that it is necessary to wear one, toddlers should stay indoors. Evacuation should be considered.

  • When cleaning up ashes after a wildfire, be careful to avoid contaminating the air again. For example, wash your car at a car wash, clean toys and furniture with a damp cloth, and use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to clean carpets.

Although the sources of air pollution may differ for each region, citizens across the country may be concerned about the air they breathe. The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from air pollution is to be aware of the condition and air quality issues in your area. It is also worth taking appropriate precautions to avoid exposure to pollutants on days when the air is dangerous.

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