Air Quality Affects Children even before birth. To breathe is to live! The quality of the air we breathe is so important that it impacts us even before we are born; the air a pregnant woman inhales is the air that transfers into the womb, where new life is formed.
Studies conducted through the National Institute of Health's (NIH) Child Health and Human Development division suggest minimizing exposure to air pollution during pregnancy, infancy, and early childhood — all critical periods for brain development.
Studies have linked exposure to common air pollutants in pregnancy to :
Low birth weight
Exposure to poor air after birth has an even more significant effect on developmental risks. A few studies have found a higher risk of autism and of lower cognitive functioning in children living near freeways.1
All Types of Air Quality Affect Children
When we think about air quality, we generally bring up images of smog and industrial pollution or exhaust from vehicles in traffic.
Indoor Air Quality
In reality, indoor air impacts young children more because many sleep 12 hours inside their homes. Low IAQ [Indoor Air Quality] brings two of the deadliest issues to children: allergens and asthma.
They are exposed to particulates of dust, dirt, smoke, and pollen, which often settle on the furniture inside the home. By eliminating these types of airborne particles through effective air filtration, we can reduce or eliminate their ill effects on children and help them maintain a healthy respiratory system.
Children face unique risks from air pollution because their lungs are growing, and they are active and breathe more rapidly than adults. Just like the arms and legs, the largest portion of a child's lungs will grow long after birth. Eighty percent of their tiny air sacs develop after birth.
Those sacs, called the alveoli, are where the life-sustaining transfer of oxygen to the blood occurs. In addition, the body's defenses that help adults fight off infections are still developing in young bodies. Children have more respiratory infections than adults, which also seems to increase their susceptibility to air pollution.2
As children grow, they spend increasingly more hours outdoors, but indoor air quality impacts them most during the first five years. Household cleaning products, dust mites, central air systems, pet dander, and even chemical air fresheners can cause allergic reactions. And if a smoker is in the family, that is the worst air pollution. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, allergies can lead to hives, eczema, asthma, infections, and more.
Asthma affects more than 230 million people around the globe and is the most chronic disease among children.3
Underdiagnosed and undertreated because people think of it as a simple breathing problem, it can be serious enough to be life-threatening and is the cause of more than 10 million school absences a year in the U.S. alone.4
Asthma occurs everywhere in the world but can be exacerbated by poor air quality, humidity levels, and genes. It's estimated that a child with an asthma parent is three to six times more likely to develop asthma than a child with parents who are not asthmatic.5
May is National Asthma & Allergy Awareness Month, and May 3 was World Asthma Day. During the entire month of May, various organizations, including the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), and others, drive public awareness campaigns to educate the world about the importance of clean air.6
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