Children face special risks from air pollution because their lungs are growing and because they are so active.
Just like the arms and legs, the largest portion of a child’s lungs will grow long after he or she is born. 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 takes place. The lungs and their alveoli aren’t fully grown until children become adults.1 In addition, the body’s defenses that help adults fight off infections are still developing in young bodies.2 Children have more respiratory infections than adults, which also seems to increase their susceptibility to air pollution.3
Furthermore, children don’t behave like adults, and their behavior also affects their vulnerability. They are outside for longer periods and are usually more active when outdoors. Consequently, they inhale more polluted outdoor air than adults typically do.
Air Pollution Increases Risk of Underdeveloped Lungs
A Southern California Children’s Health study looked at the long-term effects of particle pollution on teenagers. Tracking 1,759 children who were between ages 10 and 18 from 1993 to 2001, researchers found that those who grew up in more polluted areas face the increased risk of having underdeveloped lungs, which may never recover to their full capacity. The average drop in lung function was 20 percent below what was expected for the child’s age, similar to the impact of growing up in a home with parents who smoked.5
Community health studies are pointing to less obvious, but serious effects from year-round exposure to ozone, especially for children. Scientists followed 500 Yale University students and determined that living just four years in a region with high levels of ozone and related co-pollutants was associated with diminished lung function and frequent reports of respiratory symptoms. 6 A much larger study of 3,300 school children in Southern California found reduced lung function in girls with asthma and boys who spent more time outdoors in areas with high levels of ozone.
Read more from the American Lung Association
For 17 years, the American Lung Association has analyzed data from official air quality monitors to compile the State of the Air report. The more you learn about the air you breathe, the more you can protect your health and take steps to make our air cleaner and healthier.
In American Lung Association’s, Report Card: Ohio, Clermont, Hamilton, and Warren counties all receive an “F”
Step up to Curb Pollution in Our Community.
- Drive less. Combine trips, walk, bike, carpool or vanpool, and use buses, subways or other alternatives to driving. Vehicle emissions are a major source of air pollution. Support community plans that provide ways to get around that don’t require a car, such as more sidewalks, bike trails and transit systems.
- Use less electricity.Turn out the lights and use energy-efficient appliances. Generating electricity is one of the biggest sources of pollution, particularly in the eastern United States.
- Don’t burn wood or trash. Burning firewood and trash is among the largest sources of particle pollution in many parts of the country. If you must use a fireplace or stove for heat, convert your woodstove to natural gas, which has far fewer polluting emissions. Compost and recycle as much as possible and dispose of other waste properly; don’t burn it. Support efforts in your community to ban outdoor burning of construction and yard wastes. Avoid the use of outdoor hydronic heaters, also called outdoor wood boilers, which are frequently much more polluting than woodstoves.
- Make sure your local school system requires clean school buses, which includes replacing or retrofitting old school buses with filters and other equipment to reduce emissions. Make sure your local schools don’t idle their buses, a step that can immediately reduce emissions.