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Children sensitive to air quality

By: Bruce Warren, Gold Country News Service
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Polluted air has a much greater effect on children because of their breathing patterns and because their lungs are still developing. With September designated Spare the Air month, there are some good things happening that will decrease the amount of air pollution in Placer County. Dr. Richard Burton, Placer County Health Officer, knows the challenges youngsters face from polluted air. Burton cites the Children’s Health study by the University of Southern California that attempts to answer the long-term health effects of air pollution on children. “Children breathe more frequently than adults and because of that are exposed to a greater volume of air,” Burton said. “Children can experience more difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, a tightness in their chest, decreased stamina and increased fatigue if they’re exposed to polluted air. The worse the polluted air is, the more likely these symptoms would occur.” The study of 5,500 children conducted by a team of scientists at USC indicated those children might suffer long-term effects. “Research indicates that children exposed over long periods of time to air pollution may have lifelong impacts and impaired breathing,” Burton said. Jamie Arno, spokeswoman for Sacramento Metro Air Quality Management District, points out that parents of children anywhere in Placer County can sign up for Air Alerts on SparetheAir.com, which has an e-mail notification system that gives the daily Air Quality Index (AQI). “People can choose the daily AQI or they can choose to just receive a message by picking the level at which they want to be notified,” Arno said. “It’s a really good system for parents who have children with respiratory problems, because they can curb their outside activities when the Air Quality Index is high.” According to air specialist Ann Hobbs of the Placer County Air Pollution District, air quality has varied recently. “Generally for the past few weeks, our air quality has been from good to unhealthy for sensitive individuals which would include our children whose lungs are still developing,” Hobbs said. By leaving the commuter car home just one day a week, you can prevent 55 pounds of pollution each year from being emitted to the air, according to a press release from the Sacramento Metro Air Quality Management District. “That’s a pretty high number,” Hobbs said. “It’s amazing how much pollution a car can put out.” Good news for Placer County residents in regards to air quality is Amtrak ridership has increased 33 percent over least year on the Frequent Capitol Corridor rail commuter, according to Amtrak records “Overall this month, we have seen a 10 percent increase in ridership for the past two months,” said Megan Siren, transit manager for the Public Works Department for the City of Auburn. Reducing the number of vehicle trips will help cut down on local air pollution. “Can you flex your work schedule to reduce the number miles you are driving?” Hobbs asked. “Some have gone to longer days and others to telecommuting.” The fewer miles driven translates into less air pollution.