According to CNN, wildfires in Canada have wreaked havoc in the air of cities hundreds of miles away. For example, air pollution in New York City is at an all-time high and many schools in the city have canceled their outdoor activities. But wildfires in Canada aren’t the only cause of air pollution in the world. Many cities have highly polluted air, and many children must live with the effects of air pollution throughout their life. How does air pollution affect children?
Air Pollution Around the World
The wildfires that have caused air pollution in New York are natural sources of air pollution. Volcanoes are another one. But it’s not like nature is to blame for the polluted air most of us breathe in and out all over the world.
Apart from natural sources, there are also anthropogenic sources of air pollution including emissions from factories, cars, planes, and aerosol cans. Second-hand cigarette smoke is also considered air pollution.
According to the United Nations, “Almost all of the world’s children are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution.” The World Health Organization (WHO) says that in 2019, 99% of the population lived in areas where the air quality didn’t meet WHO standards.
How Does Air Pollution Affect Children
Children are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of air pollution for these reasons:
- Air pollution interferes with the lung and brain development of babies and children.
- Children aren’t as capable of detoxifying and metabolizing the toxicants in air pollution as adults are.
- Babies and children inhale more air per unit of bodyweight compared to adults
- Babies are even prone to damage from air pollution before they’re born. Pregnant women exposed to air pollution are more likely to give birth prematurely and their baby is more likely to have a low birthweight
What to Do About Air Pollution
Much of the air pollution in the world comes from anthropogenic sources but not all of us are equal in our power to change that. Fortunately, there are things we can do to protect our children in the short-term. These are tips that can help you keep your child safe, especially if you live in a polluted area like New York City this week.
Most children are at the height of vehicle exhaust emissions so picking them up when crossing the street is a good idea. Also try to avoid crossing the street when a heavily polluting vehicle is passing by. Also, try to avoid busy roads. Keeping children healthy is also an important issue. Children should be on healthy diets and be physically active as much as possible.
Keep an eye on the air pollution levels in your city if there’s an air quality monitoring station. This way you can make the right decision if the air is polluted. For example, you might opt to stay indoors or use protective masks.
Taking Necessary Steps
Air pollution, whether it be from a natural source or a human-made one, has dangerous effects for everyone breathing the toxicants. In the interest of ourselves and our children, we must take the necessary steps to minimize the negative effects of air pollution. Children are especially vulnerable to air pollution, so it’s our responsibility to take the necessary steps to keep them safe.