I am so happy to have Zoe Clark as a guest host today. She shares about how air pollution can influence Children's Academic Skills. What a great article on keeping our kids as happy and healthy as possible.
How Air Pollution Can Influence Children’s Academic Skills
Before I gave birth to my little girl, my mother said an undeniable truth: “Parenting is an incredible amount of love and a great deal of worrying”. From the moment children come to our world, we’re worried about their wellbeing, starting from breastfeeding and stomach cramps all the way to education and academic success. The latter concerns come the very moment you enroll your child to kindergarten. One of the things that was really bugging me when my daughter started attending kindergarten was the air quality, since we devote a lot of attention to that in our home. Because of that I started reading a lot about the impact of air pollution on children and their academic skills. Let me share with you what I have found out.
A Critical Period for Brain Formation
The first five years of the childhood are the most important for the developing healthy brain functions, while the first three are crucial in shaping the child’s brain architecture. It is precisely in those early years when kids learn through experiences and exercise their thinking skills. It is very important that, during this period of their lives, the kids are treated with love and care, that they eat a balanced healthy diet, that parents and educators work with them as they learn, and that they are not exposed to harming chemicals and air pollution.
Children Breath in More Polluted Air than Adults
One of the issues that should raise even more concern is that young kids, due to their still undeveloped lungs, breathe in more polluted air when compared to their body weight and spend more time outside when the exposure is greater, than adults. Some studies suggest that exposure to pollutants during this period of psychological development can cause many health problems, diseases and dysfunctions.
The Impacts of Chemicals on the Brain
Some chemicals, such as mercury and lead can have long-lasting effects on children’s neurological health. Air pollution is a complex mixture of different chemicals, so we can’t even know what we are fighting against. There is a research confirming the link between polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (a component of air pollution) and incidence of ADHD in 9-year old kids.
Indoor Air Pollution
The fight against indoor air pollution is much more within our power than against outdoor. We can improve the air quality in our homes each day, by using paint colors that don’t contain VOC (volatile organic compounds), introducing air-purifying plants, using air purifiers and avoiding to use chemicals for house cleaning.
What Can Educational Facilities Do?
There is not much the educational facilities can do with regards to outdoors, but it is important to ensure that during the time the kids are inside, they are safe. The kindergarten my daughter attends, for instance, has portable hepa air purifiers, which purify the indoor air of pollutants and air-born allergens. They also don’t use chemicals when cleaning the floors and furniture and rely strictly on steam cleaners and natural cleansers.
What Should the Government Do?
Air pollution isn’t good for anyone, especially for our children who we should protect the most. Solving this issue isn’t easy and it will not happen overnight. But it is important to set the wheels in motion, bicycle wheels we hope. Governments’ strategies in fighting air-pollution should include numerous steps that will introduce commercial use of eco-friendly fuel and deal with individual misbehavior and corporative irresponsibility.
The effects of exposure to air pollutant on children’s brain functions and academic skills, are subtle, but they can pile up, so it is important to start addressing this issue as soon as possible, from the individual level to a global solution.