Three-quarters of American parents are concerned about poor air quality

Following months of atrocious air quality across North America, The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health has asked parents about protecting children’s health when air quality is poor.

The results have been published in a report titled ‘Protecting children from poor air quality’ 

The hospital, which is affiliated with The University of Michigan, asked over 2,000 parents of children up to the age of 18 a variety of questions pertaining to poor air quality events, such as ‘What were your main sources of information about the air quality problems?’ and ‘ While the air quality was poor, did you do any of the following to protect your child’s health?’

Two-thirds (67%) said that in the past two years they had experienced at least one day with poor or unhealthy air quality in their area, citing the causes as wildfires (81%), excessive heat (42%), and seasonal changes such as pollen (34%), elevated ozone levels (14%), and industrial pollution (11%).

Most parents (73%) said they were concerned about the impact of air quality problems on their child’s health but fewer (63%) said they knew what actions to take.

In response to poor air quality alerts, most parents kept their windows closed and limited their child’s time outdoors while less than half had their child avoid strenuous outdoor activities or used a home air filter. Fewer, one in nine, had their child wear a mask when outdoors and one in seven took no action at all.

Susan Woolford, M.D., M.P.H., pediatrician at U-M Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital said: ‘Our report suggests poor air quality is a common issue for families. Local news and weather reports may help parents gauge their community’s air quality, but many seem unsure about how to protect their child when air quality worsens.

‘Children’s organs are still developing, making them more susceptible to health risks from exposure to polluted air caused by wildfire smoke and other pollutants. This makes it essential to take precautions to protect their well-being when the air is unhealthy.’

Just 21 % of parents report being aware that their child’s school has a policy outlining action steps when the air quality is unhealthy. Most parents support moving break times, bringing PE classes indoors and canceling outdoor sports and activities. Fewer support encouraging children to wear masks outside.

Woolford said. said: ‘Being outdoors is generally good for children’s physical and mental health but parents must also consider the risks of exposure to pollution. When air quality problems are expected to be temporary, moving activities indoors or planning outdoor events for early in the day when air quality tends to be better may be warranted to prevent high levels of exposure.’

image: University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health


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