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How Does Air Quality Affect Children’s Health?

Are your kids involved in outdoor activities? Do you ever wonder about the effect of air pollution on their health? The arrival of the summertime means that kids spend a lot more time outdoors, breathing in the fresh air.

But is it really that fresh?

If you live around a major city, the air might seem clear when you look around. However, if you take a thousand-foot stare into the distance, you'll probably notice a have engulfing your vision after a few hundred yards.

Air pollution is a real thing, with many contributing elements to the problem. Particulate matter from manufacturing and industry and vehicle emissions, and many other factors play a role in the air quality in your city or town.

If your kid is out there running around on the soccer field, they're breathing hard as they enjoy the game. They're taking in everything in their air column, with their body supplying the air to the blood, along with some of the contaminants.

Do these contaminants have any impact on the health of your kids?


How Do Air Pollutants Affect Children's Health?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 90% of all children globally have exposure to polluted air that may result in damage o their health. That's not good news. Children are especially susceptible to the effects of air pollution due to their development and the ratio of air they breathe in relative to their body weight.

Over-exposure to airborne pollutants in the air column can cause the following adverse health effects in children.

  • Adverse implications for neurodevelopment and neuroplasticity in the brain.
  • Problems with mental development and motor skills.
  • Lung damage and infection.
  • Irregular heart rhythm.
  • An increase in the frequency and intensity of asthma attacks.
  • An increase in the frequency and intensity of upper-respiratory inflammatory issues.
  • Shortness of breath and problems breathing.
  • A need for medications like steroid inhalers.

Children affected by over-exposure to airborne environmental pollutants may also experience an adverse effect on their mental development and learning ability.

Dealing with asthma and respiratory conditions may affect the child's ability to pay attention in the classroom or miss school. They might also have problems participating in sports due to breathing problems induced by asthma.

According to information from the CDC, asthma is a leading cause of student absenteeism from school.


Outdoor air pollution sources

Children come in contact with air pollution in several situations. They breathe in the air outdoors during recess and while they play sports during after-school activities. Walking or riding to school or sitting in a car with other kids also exposes kids to low air quality levels.

Severe air-quality problems caused by wildfires and other local events will also produce particulate matter and smoke that lowers air quality. If the child lives in a city with a smog problem, that presents problems with the development of respiratory issues in the child. These issues can end up creating illness or limiting a child's experiences in their youth.

Airborne pollutants come in two categories, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and fine particulate matter.

Particulate matter

This pollutant consists of solid microscopic particles or droplets, small enough for the child to inhale. The child may experience health issues if they get repeated exposure to this pollutant. For instance, breathing in mold spores can cause health problems involving the respiratory and nervous systems.

VOC emissions

These carbon-based gases cause nose, eye, and throat irritation, along with feelings of fatigue, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and other chronic health disorders. Some patients may experience damage to the central nervous system (CNS) and the liver.

Some of the more common forms of VOCs include wildfire smoke, smog, temperature inversions, indoor air pollutants, and gassing off of paint, solvents, and adhesives.


When kids receive exposure to poor air quality conditions with high pollution levels, they will experience some impact on their health. However, it's not only indoors where air quality is a cause for concern.

When the air quality is low outdoors, the air inside homes is just as bad, and in some cases, it's worse. Schools and buildings are also high-risk areas where kids come in contact with air pollutants. School classrooms may also have mold infestations or other contaminants and VOCs in the air.

For instance, children attending school in areas with high traffic volumes experience more frequent health issues involving infections of the upper respiratory tract. They display symptoms like wheezing and coughing compared to those kids attending school in less polluted areas.


Protection Against Airborne Pollutants in the Home

Fortunately, there are steps parents can take to limit their children's exposure to airborne pollutants. Installing an air-conditioner or HVAC system in the home is a great way to improve the air quality for your kids. Link the HVAC to a HEPA filter to ensure you get the best air-scrubbing action to remove particulate matter.

Installing carbon dioxide and monoxide detectors in the home and controlling the relative humidity in rooms go a long way to improve air quality. Keep your home clean, and dust and wipe surface regularly.


AQI Levels Explained

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a tool designed to help the public and officials understand air quality levels in their area. AQI helps people and scientists map the history of air quality in their hometown, letting them know when it's safe to go outside and when the air quality is low and could damage your health.

The AQI operates on a color scale with the following colors and definitions.

Green (AQI rating 0 to 50)

The air quality outdoors is good.

Yellow (AQI rating 51 to 100)

Moderate air quality outdoors. May affect kids with allergies.

Orange (AQI rating 101 to 150)

Children with asthma may experience complications. Healthy kids should limit activity.

Red (AQI rating 151 to 200)

Indicates unhealthy air quality; organizers should reschedule longer outdoor events. Limit all outdoor physical activity where possible.

Purple (AQI rating 201 to 300)

Children should remain indoors as much as possible. Reschedule outdoor activities.

Maroon (AQI rating 301 to 500)

This rating is the worst air quality level, with the entire local population experiencing some disruption to their lifestyle and health. Children should remain indoors whenever possible.


Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe from Air Pollution

Monitoring the local AQI levels in your area gives you a great way to assess the air quality. You get a visual representation that easy to use and follow to protect your child's health. Follow the guidelines and limit your kid's outdoor activity when the air quality is low or above the orange stage.

Kids can increase their consumption of air by 20X when exercising. Therefore, don't let them exercise on days where the air quality is below standards for exercise. Follow the AQI guidelines according to your child's individual needs. Remember, kids with asthma will need to stay indoors more often than those that are healthy.

Check with regional air quality organizations if you have further concerns about the air quality and airborne pollutants in your area.

When the air quality gets into the purple and marron zones, make sure you take the following precautions to protect your kids from the perils of the situation.

Ask your doctor for an action asthma plan to follow in the case of your kid experiencing an attack when you're in a vulnerable situation and for daily management.

Update your kid's school on the action plan in case of emergencies on school property.

Purchase an HVAC system or air conditioner for the home. If you already have one, set it to recirculate the air inside your home on bad-quality air days.

Minimize as many sources of air pollution inside the home as possible. Use low-VOC consumer products (check the label for information), and limit the use of aerosols and air fresheners inside the house. Avid burning incense and candles, and get a hood for the stove to sweep away cooking fumes.

Air purifiers can also assist with removing pollutants from the air. Check for models that come with water traps for easy reference and cleaning.

Wearing masks outdoors is now pretty much commonplace. Masks can help limit the amount of particulate matter entering the lungs on bad air-quality days.

The best thing you can do for your kids is stay informed of local air-quality conditions and prepare as best as possible to keep them safe.


Test the Air Quality in Your Home – Work With the Air Quality Specialists MI&T

Do you know the air quality in your home? As mentioned, air quality levels in your house could be worse than those outdoors. It's challenging to assess the air quality without the right tools for the job. Fortunately, MI&T has a team of skilled professionals ready to evaluate the air quality in your home.

MI&T utilizes the latest technology to give you a full report on the air quality. We'll pick up the presence of mold, VOCs, and other particulate matter in the air that could be a health risk for your child. Why risk their health when a simple inspection is all you need to get peace of mind?