Various studies have found that air pollution causes serious health complications on adults and children, not mentioning that air pollution also affect animal and plant life.
The principal air pollutants found in most urban settings include carbon monoxide and sulfur oxides generated mostly by vehicles and other machinery, hydrocarbons, and both solid and liquid particulate material (Socha, 2007). Air pollution is found in both indoor and outdoor settings.
In the indoor setting, the Environmental Protection Agency has reported that some air pollutants found in most American homes, generated by such things as telephone cables, cleaning fluids, linoleum tile, and other building materials, are three times more likely to cause some types of cancer than outdoor air pollutants (EPA, 2002).
Indoor and outdoor air pollutants cause a wide range of respiratory problems, which includes asthma, coughs, obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, heart failure, heart-rhythm problems, and cystic fibrosis (Lipfert, 1994).
It is a well known fact that individuals suffering from chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes stand an elevated risk of developing complications and, even worse, dying when they are exposed to high concentrations of air pollutants. Lastly, both indoor and outdoor air pollution can enhance allergy symptoms, especially in children and the elderly.
Children are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution due to their weak immune systems and also due to the fact that their vital organs are still in the developmental phase (Lipfert, 1994). On a more serious note, Ritz & Wilhelm (2010) observes that “…evidence is accumulating that environmental exposures can cause infants to be born premature (before 37 weeks of gestation) or low weight (less than 2500 grams, or 5.5 pounds), or to be born with certain birth defects” (para. 3).
These babies, according to the authors, stand a higher risk of dying during infancy, and those who survive stands an elevated risk of developing brain, cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive conditions in early life. According to EPA (2002), “…asthma rates have increased 160 percent in the past 15 years in children under 5 years of age” (p. 1-1).
Studies have demonstrated that high exposure to air pollutants in early life increases the risks of children to develop diabetic and heart conditions later in life. As already mentioned, early childhood is a significant phase for the sustained development and maturation of critical biological systems such as the brain, the respiratory system, and the immune system.
As such, children are particularly vulnerable to air pollutants because the toxics inhibit or impair the proper development of the mentioned systems, or worsen existing medical conditions, such as asthma (Ritz & Wilhelm, 2010; Air Resources Board, 2009). As such, it can be safely argued that air pollutants put children at an elevated risk of developing adverse health conditions.
The first task in the multidisciplinary team should be to identify the foremost sources of air pollution within the community and the nature of the specific toxics or hazardous chemicals associated with the pollutants (Lipfert, 1994). This calls for a comprehensive assessment of the observed and perceived air pollution impact on the health, growth, and development of the children.
Hospital records may best serve the purpose of identifying the various medical conditions predominant in the community, and which may be directly related to air pollution. The second phase should entail the development and implementation of monitoring equipments to keep track of the trends.
The third phase, inexorably viewed as the most important phase, should entail rolling out education and outreach programs aimed at sensitizing the community and road users of the need to reduce air pollution and the correlation between air pollution and some of the health problems observed in the community. Community members must be educated on how to adequately ventilate their houses to reduce indoor air pollution, while road users must be educated on the types of fuel to use so as to reduce outdoor air pollution.
More importantly, community members can be taught how to reduce particulate pollution, which is directly linked to an increase in asthma and various forms of allergy in children, by dripping playing grounds and pavements with water and disinfectant (EPA, 2002).
Children need to be educated on the need to play in a healthy environment and also the need to observe some basic hygiene principles such as washing of hands after play to reduce contact with the toxic pollutants (CDC, n.d.). These preventive steps will definitely curtail exposure of children to air pollutants.
Air Resources Board. (2009). Health effects research. Retrieved November 13 2010
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. (n.d.). An ounce of prevention keeps the germ away. Retrieved November 13 2010
Lipfert, F.W. (1994). Air pollution and community health: A critical review and data sourcebook. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold Ritz, B., & Wilhelm, M. (2010). Air pollution impacts on infants and children. Retrieved November 13 2010 < http://www.ioe.ucla.edu/reportcard/article.asp?parentid=1700>
Socha, T. (2007). Air pollution and effects. Retrieved November 14 2010
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2002). Planning and implementing a real-time air pollution monitoring and outreach program for your community. Retrieved November 14 2010 < http://airbeat.org/airbeat-tech-xfer-final.pdf>