October is National Children’s Health Month. As a Mom, I am always working to protect my child—trying to prepare healthy meals, setting limits on electronics, encouraging exercise and time outdoors, or taking over the carving of our pumpkin.
But, one of the biggest threats to our children’s health is air pollution. Air pollution is all around us. It is emitted from our car tailpipes, construction equipment, manufacturing facilities, fires, power plants and many other sources. It invades our homes and schools. The largest sources of outdoor air pollution come from the way we produce and consume electricity including emissions from our cars, from coal-fired power plants, and from small-scale manufacturing and similar industries.
Everyone is affected, but children are extremely vulnerable to the negative impacts of air pollution. Children breathe in more air per pound of body weight then adults and exposure to pollution can cause abnormal development in their growing bodies. Such effects include respiratory and cardiovascular damage, abnormal neurological development, poor growth of a fetus before birth, diabetes, and cancer.
Changing the resources we use, such as coal, natural gas and petroleum, to produce our electricity and run our cars will significantly impact the quality of the air we breathe, and ultimately our health.
I know that just hearing about air pollution can make you feel like you don’t have any control, but the truth is, with each one of us making one or two changes we can make a difference.
For Children’s Health Month, I’d like to share with you a few tips for helping improve the lives of our children. I challenge you to commit to one, two or all of them this year. Every change counts!
Know Your Daily Air Quality Forecast. Half the battle of anything is having the information you need to make decisions, right? Many of our cities in the Southeast, including Atlanta, Columbus, Charlotte, Raleigh, Nashville, Knoxville, Columbia, and many others suffer or have suffered from poor air quality. Knowing your daily air quality forecast can help you know the best and worst times for your kids to be playing outdoors. Share this information with your children’s school or daycare facility as well. Sign up to receive air alerts in your area. In Georgia, go here.
Avoid Activity Around Hotspots. Hotspots are areas with a higher concentration of pollution, such as busy streets and construction zones. Try to avoid strenuous activity and play around these areas.
Conserve Energy at Home and Work. Unplugging and turning off your electronics when not in use will not only reduce pollution, but will save you money on your electric bill. Cha-ching! This includes unplugging devices when not in operation to avoid “energy vampires,” lowering your thermostat in colder months, raising it in warmer months, and turning down your water heater.
Plan Your Errands to Reduce Driving. Yes, this can be hard as we are hauling kids from activity to activity and going on much-needed trips, but combining one or two errands, telecommuting one day per week, or carpooling can reduce pollution and save you money. Cha-ching!
Reduce Unnecessary Idling. Idling is a common practice, but it actually increases wear and tear on a car’s engine and wastes
fuel and money. Cha-ching!. As much as possible, turn off the engine when waiting in carpool lines and reduce use of drive-thru windows to reduce idle time.
Use Clean Energy. The price for solar energy is about half of what it was just a few years ago. Learn more about all the new clean energy installations happening in your area. The National Solar Tour starts this weekend. Check it out. You can be next!
Go Electric. Electric vehicle use is on the rise and makes a lot of sense for most city drivers. Studies show that EVs can meet the cargo needs of 42% of people in the US and nearly 70% of Americans drive less than 60 miles per day, well within the range of electric vehicles. EVs can also save you money. Studies shows that EVs can save you between $460-1,200 annually or $13,000 over the car’s lifetime. Cha-ching!
Make Your Voice Heard. Contact your state and federal Representatives and Senators and let them know that you support cleaner energy sources. You should also contact your state public utility commission as they regulate our power companies and make decisions on the power sources many of our power companies use.
Share, share, share. Let others’ know how they too can reduce air pollution by making a few simple changes. We can all make a difference.
For more information, EPA has an excellent comprehensive guide for addressing exposure to all types of pollution. Check it out here.