Poor air quality affects all of us, but children are particularly at risk. With vulnerable immune systems and lungs, kids are affected by the levels of contaminants and smog in their environment, especially since they tend to spend more time outside playing and exercising. Those who live near freeways and in large cities are unfortunately at greater risk, as the L.A. Times reported in their recent article “A clear pattern of risk emerges from city smog”: “pollutants are at much higher levels within a few hundred feet of the freeways that crisscross the city -- and for the adults and kids who live, work or go to school there, the effects add up.” Since lung capacity reduces with age, the formative years for our lungs are during childhood-a period of our lives when most of us spend more time than ever outdoors. In 2003, California passed a law to control the building of new schools within close proximity (1,650 ft) to freeways however this is only a small step towards limiting our children’s exposure to pollution. Tests by USC researchers found that stunted lung development corresponded to the distance children lived from freeways-those who lived within 500 meters of a freeway or major road showed decreased lung capacity compared to those who lived further away from smog sources.
While we can all do our part to reduce emissions in our environment, we ultimately cannot control the amount of pollution our children are exposed to. Besides living outside of highly polluted areas, the only thing we can really do is make sure the air inside our homes is as fresh and clean as possible. While indoor and outdoor pollution differ greatly, it is important to give our lungs a break when they get home. Pet dander, cigarette smoke, dust and other indoor contaminants are still taxing on our bodies but luckily they can be controlled and eliminated from your home. Using air purification systems and increasing indoor air circulation are ways of improving indoor air quality, so that after your kids spend a day running around outdoors, they can come home to a safe space to breathe.