Written by: Eco-Healthy Child Care®
Clean air is necessary for good health – both indoors and outdoors.
Children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution because their lungs are still developing. Children also breathe in more air per pound of body weight than do adults. Exposure to some pollutants can decrease lung function or cause asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and even cancer.
Did you know that indoor air can be 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air? And since we spend more time indoors than outdoors, the U.S. EPA says that health risks “may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors.” In addition poor ventilation, the presence of dirt, contaminants, moisture, and warmth, which encourage the growth of mold, can trigger allergic reactions and asthma.
Outdoor air pollution can be a risk to children’s health, too. Sources of pollution include vehicles (cars, buses, trucks), industry, ships, trains. Mother Nature can play a role, such as through wild fires. Human activities such as smoking and campfires also contribute. Traffic pollutants include possible harmful chemicals in gasoline; diesel exhaust is a carcinogen. Child care facilities located less than 500 feet from major roadways or close to heavy bus traffic may be exposed to excessive levels vehicle exhaust.
Here are some recommendations to improve your indoor air quality:
- Ventilate – Increase ventilation naturally by opening screened windows and using fans.
- Prevent mold and mildew- reduce excess moisture and humidity. Fix leaks and clean spills promptly. Use a fan that vents to the outdoors in both bathroom and kitchen. For major water leaks hire a professional company to ensure drying within 24-48 hours.
- Do not use scented candles, air fresheners or products with fragrances.
- Never smoke on child care premises, in your car or near children. If you do smoke, wear a smoking jacket and remove it upon entering buildings. Wash hands immediately.
To protect children from outdoor air pollutants:
- Adopt a no-idling policy. Pollution from idling vehicles can also enter a facility.
- Know your Air Quality- Check your local air quality index (AQI) daily, usually found in your weather forecast, or visit www.airnow.gov. If the forecast is for a Code Orange day (unhealthy for sensitive populations) or above, minimize strenuous outdoor activities or keep children indoors.
To learn more about Air Quality, check out EHCC’s fact sheets at www.cehn.org/ehcc/factsheets. Many factors affect indoor air quality. In addition to our Air Quality fact sheet, EHCC fact sheets on pesticides, furniture and carpets, household chemicals, and radon offer additional tips for healthier indoor air. EHCC helps early childhood learning environments to be as healthy, safe and green as possible by reducing children’s exposure to toxic chemicals. To learn more about this science-based and award-winning program, visit www.cehn.org/ehcc.