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The Air of Our Children

The Air of Our Children

Lauren Carlstrom

I had the privilege of witnessing my brother’s first baby-boy’s baptism this weekend. As the minister plunged the baby’s wiggly head under the trickling water, I caught his little nose seeking a breath of air.

I feel fortunate that my nephew and nieces will grow up in a city that is known for its 10,000 plus lakes and environmental progressiveness. However, I am saddened that many lovely children – who live in both impoverished and industrialized nations – will not have ready access to clean air.

The World Health Organization recently reported that 3 million people a year die from air pollution – that’s more than Malaria and HIV/Aids deaths combined! And while more than 90% of pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries like Asia and Africa (Rice), the clean air crisis is a real “first world problem,” too. In Europe and the United States, where air pollution is a leading cause of death, research reveals farming emissions are a significant contributor (Carrington, 2015). In the UK, air pollution levels in many cities is above legal limits, shortening lifespans at a rate of 40,000 early deaths per year (Carrington, 2016).

Children walking to school wearing smog pollution masks in Britain. Residents in many developing countries are exposed to toxic air both outdoors and inside their homes. Photograph: David Bagnall/Alam

Sadly, air pollution may most drastically affect our little ones. A recent study from Sweden found a link to air pollution and mental illness in children, even at low levels of pollution (Carrington, 2016). On the flip side, “…a lower concentration of air pollution, first and foremost from traffic, may reduce psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents,” reported Anna Oudin of Umeå University, who led the study. Prof. Frank Kelly of King’s College London explains the research “…builds on existing evidence that children are particularly sensitive to poor air quality probably because their lifestyles increase the dose of air pollution they are exposed too – i.e., they are more active - and that developing organs may be more vulnerable until they fully mature” (Carrington, 2015).

So what’s the solution? Keep the kids indoors, playing video games for exercise? Wear masks on our face, like children in Great Brittan are starting to do? How do we, and our children who live in polluted cities, stay active and healthy?

It’s time we all take action – so that every breath our children breathe is free of dust, debris and particulate matter. Oxygen Plus is committed to help uncover ways to make our world a healthier place to live and breathe. Education is the first step, so please share this – and other O+ Articles on air pollution and the clean air crisis.

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Rice, Doyle. USA Today. 90% of people breathe polluted air; New Delhi is world's most polluted big city. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/05/02/world-health-organization-air-pollution-affects-90-population/572825002/. May 2, 2018. Retrieved September 10, 2018.


Carrington, Damian. The Guardian. More people die from air pollution than Malaria and HIV/Aids, new study shows. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/16/more-people-die-from-air-pollution-than-malaria-and-hivaids-new-study-shows. September 16, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2018.


Carrington, Damian. The Guardian. Air pollution linked to increased mental illness in children. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/13/air-pollution-linked-to-increased-mental-illness-in-children. June 13, 2016. Retrieved September 10, 2018.