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New campaign highlights air pollution's harmful effects on kids

Posted at 8:48 AM, Feb 27, 2024

A non-partisan group of climate scientists called "Science Moms" just launched a national ad campaign highlighting the harmful effects of air pollution on children's health.

Click here and here to watch the ads.

"As we learn more and more evidence of what fossil fuel pollution means in terms of a developing child, we understand how harmful it is," said Dr. Lisa Patel, a member of Science Moms and pediatrician.

Dr. Patel serves as the Executive Director of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health and is also a Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford School of Medicine. She points out that it's not just burning fossil fuels posing a danger.

This past summer smoke from Canadian wildfires swept across the country. At the time, millions of Americans were under air quality alerts.

"Wildfire smoke, from some evidence that we have, is potentially up to 10 times more hazardous to a child's lungs and body than the regular air pollution we breathe from the burning of fossil fuels," said Dr. Patel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports during the wildfire smoke event on June 7, asthma-related emergency room visits spiked by almost 82 percent in New York state.

"It's difficult for me to experience and it's even more difficult to watch your own children have these experiences," said Dr. Claudia Benitez-Nelson, a professor in the School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment at the University of South Carolina. Both she and her children have asthma.

"We know what these impacts are. We know that they are, they are so much bigger and stronger when you have these wildfires and these pollutants in the atmosphere," she added.

Dr. Patel encourages caregivers to look at the air quality index in their area by visiting and to wear a mask if they're concerned.

You can also buy an air purifier for your home. If it's too pricey, the EPA has instructions on its website on how to make one yourself with a box fan and air filter.

Both Dr. Patel and Dr. Benitez-Nelson say we all need to be thinking about how to keep our kids safe long-term.

"We can think about how we transport our children to school, the buses that are being used, you know, do you let your cars idle? We can talk about how parents can talk to their communities, their elected officials about their plans for about not just air quality, but climate change," said Dr. Benitez-Nelson.

"Thinking about it on a larger structural scale with our schools, with our decision makers to make sure that they know how air pollution is affecting our children's health," said. Dr. Patel.