I Want My Daughter to Play Outside

BY ON June 1, 2011

I grew up living close to the ocean and surrounded by mountains in El Salvador.  Houses there typically have no central AC and are built to maximize natural air circulation, especially during the hot summer months.  Life was always lived outdoors; even indoors, terrace doors and windows were always wide open.

I still prefer to feel the sun and wind on my skin.  I would much rather nap (not that I ever can anymore!) on a hammock than in my bed.  I live in Los Angeles where the weather is perfect for me and the outdoors is inviting.

My daughter craves being outdoors. We enjoy small hikes, walking or biking to the park, going to the beach or the picking farms around town.  Even the malls we like going to are outdoors.

I had never, ever thought of being concerned for our love of being outdoors.  Never.  But now that I´m part of the Moms Clean Air Force and obsessing over the dire consequences of our most precious commodity, I´m aware that playing outdoors at certain times may be detrimental to my girl´s health.  In fact, studies have shown that kids living in towns with high pollution levels who regularly play outside are three times more likely to develop asthma than those that stay indoors.

My girl doesn´t have asthma, but I don´t need to be able to see a noticeable chronic disease taking effect on her for there to be long-term repercussions.  Children are the most susceptible to our horrible air quality because their lungs are still developing and their exposure to bad air is long term.  This means that their lungs may seem fine now, but they may be debilitating.  A USC Children´s Health Study found that kids with longer exposure to air pollution showed a worsening in lung function.

As scary as the consequences seem, I just can not see myself depriving my daughter of an active life outdoors. I can´t keep her living in a bubble and moving is just not an option right now.  So, what can we do?

First, we just need to become more aware of the day´s air quality in our city. Note I said “aware,” not “obsessed;” there’s a thin line, but a line.

You can go to www.airnow.org, enter your zip code and get the day’s AQI (Air Quality Index) summary.

If you want to get your children involved, you should navigate together the AIRNow Kid’s Air site where they can learn what the colors for the AQI mean, what to do when the air is bad, etc..

I’m a smartphone mom, so I downloaded the AQMD app that not only gives me the AQI in L.A., but also connects me to the Clean Air Congress, makes it easy to get related news and events and more.

Second, air filters for the home are recommended.  I’m seriously looking into those.

Third, we can fight, fight, fight for the Clean Air Act.  We can’t bottle air, it can’t be purified and sold, we have to take care of it.  Speak out in your community, join forces with other moms in your areas, write in your blogs (if you have them) or your Facebook wall to make your friends aware of the risks involved with the air we currently breathe. Risks that will increase if we don’t protect the Clean Air Act.

Lastly, we can all get more involved in the conversation about what exactly we can do, as moms, to fight for clean air.  Today for example, the Moms Clean Air Force is hosting an online chat to share our ideas.  Join us at 2:00 PM EST and dedicate just one hour to the cause: http://www.chatzy.com/775509788933.

Meanwhile, my family and I will continue to live our life outdoors, but in a more conscious way.  My girl will play outdoors and I will protect that.

TOPICS: Activism, Asthma, Coal, Latino Community, Politics, Pollution, Social Justice