Cleaner Cars Help Kids Breathe Easier

BY ON March 13, 2013

Little girl, with dog anf luggage, sitting on the open back of a car.

This was written by Heather Stephenson for the Appalachian Mountain Club’s, Great Kids, Great Outdoors blog:

I want kids to get out in nature so they can enjoy all its benefits. Not so they will suffer extra lung damage.

But the truth is, in our polluted world, even the air we breathe can contain invisible dangers. And activities like hiking, which should be healthy, can actually make the problem worse. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorizes children and adults who are active outdoors as people who are “sensitive” to ground-level ozone because exercising outside causes us to breathe in polluted air faster and more deeply than other people.

The solution is not to stop exercising or to stay indoors. Instead, we need to look at what makes the air so bad for us to breathe and what we can do about it.

Reducing Tailpipe Pollution

One culprit is the pollution that comes from cars and trucks. Although the newer vehicles on our roads are cleaner and more efficient than in the past, the regulations on vehicle emissions haven’t been updated since 1999.

The EPA has drafted new standards, not yet formally proposed, that would reduce nitrogen oxides, organic compounds, and particulates from our exhaust pipes. And these rules wouldn’t just affect new cars: The rules also would reduce sulfur in gasoline. With less sulfur in the gas we buy, all vehicles with pollution control systems will run more efficiently, meaning an immediate drop in smog-forming pollutants from existing cars.

Advocates say that adopting the new standards would reduce air pollution as much as taking 33 million cars off the road, yet increase the cost of gasoline by only about a penny a gallon.

Some doctors see such changes as a clear public health need. Consider the sober words of a 2009 article on children and asthma, published in a supplement to Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics: “Because the evidence indicates significant adverse effects of air pollution at current levels, there is clearly a need to reduce levels of regulated pollutants such as ozone, as well as unregulated pollutants in tailpipe emissions from motor vehicles. Achieving this long-term goal requires the active involvement of physicians and medical providers to ensure that the health of children is at the top of the list of competing priorities for regulatory policy decision-making.”

Other Steps

Advocating for strong federal standards that would reduce pollution is one good step to protect kids’ lungs. Here are a few other ideas I’ve adapted from the Pediatrics article, which range from national and local policies to behaviors you can adopt at home:

  • Invest in public transit.
  • Build bicycle and walking paths.
  • Forbid idling of school buses.
  • Carpool.
  • Walk, bicycle, or take public transit instead of a car.
  • Avoid walking along streets with heavy traffic, when possible.
  • Pay attention to the air quality forecast in your area and reduce outdoor activity when air quality is bad.

TELL PRESIDENT OBAMA TO TAKE ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE

TOPICS: Asthma, Clean Air Rules and Regulations, New Hampshire, Pollution

  • mamabuck

    When talking about air quality or asthma, why is wood smoke never mentioned?
    It contains hundreds of the same toxic chemicals that are also in tobacco smoke, and it is far more concentrated. It is also far more prevalent! Wood smoke is deadly for children ad unborn children. With their smaller, still developing lungs; they take a bigger hit of pollution with every breath they take. Moms and grandmothers nation-wide ask Moms Clean Air Force to initiate educational efforts at wood smoke awareness and reduction. Recreational burning by families is promoted as green and natural, when nothing could be farther from the truth. The combustion is the problem. Tobacco is natural only until you burn it. There is no safe level of wood smoke, just as there is no safe level of tobacco smoke.
    Please help families and Moms everywhere know this! President Obama needs an education too–It is crucial!
    Julie Mellum
    President, Take Back the Air http://www.backbacktheair,com

    Reply

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