When my daughter was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, I worried about the quality of the air she was breathing. Air pollution poses great risks to our health, especially for children as they are more vulnerable to its effects. In fact, a study that ran from 1989 to 2000 found that the risk of respiratory death more than doubled for infants aged 7-12 months when exposed to high average levels of particulates in the 6 months prior. In addition, asthma has become the fastest-growing chronic condition in the U.S. and rates among children under age four have more than doubled over the last two decades. Despite these alarming statistics, parents can still take action to protect their children from the harmful effects of both indoor and outdoor air pollution.

  1. Check the air quality forecast for your area daily by visiting airnow.gov.
  2. Don't exercise outside when pollution levels are high and always stay away from high-traffic areas. Limiting the time your child spends outside on unhealthy air days can help protect her lungs.
  3. Help reduce air pollution by walking, biking, carpooling, or using public transportation.
  4. Avoid second-hand smoke by asking people not to smoke in your house or yard and support making all public places smoke-free.
  5. Save energy by using energy-efficient lighting and appliances, and by recycling. Turn off appliances and lights when not in use.
  6. Use hand-powered or electric lawn equipment instead of gasoline-powered. These devices often don't have a pollution control device, which means they can pollute the air even more than cars.
  7. Don't burn wood or trash. These are major sources of particle pollution. Convert your wood stove to natural gas.
  8. Get leaky air-conditioner and refrigeration systems fixed.
  9. Make sure you follow proper protocol when disposing of paint, solvents, and pesticides.
  10. When painting, use a brush instead of a sprayer.
  11. Install and run exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom to protect against radon. Use extra exhaust fans when working with paint or other chemicals indoors.
  12. Switch your household cleaners to plant-based products like those made by Seventh Generation. Don't ever use bleach, as it is a major lung irritant.
  13. Ensure that your gas-burning stoves, dryers, and water heaters vent properly to the outdoors.
  14. Don't idle your car in your attached garage.
  15. Visit the gas station after dark. The sun turns evaporating gas emissions into air pollution that contributes to ozone.
  16. Encourage your child's school to reduce air pollution. Schools have many sources of air pollutants including idling buses, locker rooms, and heating and ventilation systems. Help them clean up their act with Tools for Schools.
  17. Get involved with your community and learn about your local air pollution plans. Visit the American Lung Association for more tips and ideas.