Smog season and kids

Atlanta’s smog season started May 1, and runs through September 30. That means weather conditions are more likely to create unhealthy air out of the pollution that comes from vehicle tailpipes and power plant smokestacks. Smog requires pollution, heat, and sunlight to form. That’s a recipe for asthma attacks and asthma development in children, the elderly, and people with chronic heart and lung diseases.

It’s worth it to be smart about being outdoors in smog season. My friend Rebecca Watts Hull runs a cool program called Mothers and Other for Clean Air (www.mothersandothersforcleanair.org). She and her organization are reaching out to families, child care providers, summer camps, schools and churches to help them learn about the proper precautions to take to protect children against pollution.

Children have are especially sensitive to air pollution, because their little lungs are still developing, and they breathe much more air per body weight than adults, and they also spend more time outside (which is usually a good thing). But you should pay attention to Smog Alert days, especially Orange or Red ones, and adjust your behavior (like limiting outdoor time at certain times of day).

Our church’s 8-week summer day camp in inner-city Atlanta is moving outdoor recreation time from the afternoons (which are more likely to have toxic air) to mornings (before smog has a chance to form). Even then, on some days all activity will have to be indoors.

The way we build our city (requiring Atlantans to collectively drive the distance to the sun and halfway back every day) and power our homes and businesses (with antiquated, dirty coal-fired generating plants) has side effects on our most vulnerable and precious family members. Taking personal, protective action is one thing. What can we do as Christians to create a culture whose economy respects life and safeguards health?

Check out Mothers and Others (www.mothersandothersforcleanair.org), or email Rebecca to get involved (rwattshull@gaconservancy.org). You can get Rebecca’s "Smog Season Safety Tips" at http://georgiaconservancy.org/mothersandothers/Smog%20May%2008.pdf. And if you live in Atlanta, you can sign up for emailed smog alerts, sent a day in advance based on weather and pollution predictions, by going to the Clean Air Campaign’s website http://www.cleanaircampaign.com/tools/sign_up_form. If you don’t live in Atlanta, you can still find out smog alert information in your area by going to the EPA’s site http://www.airnow.gov.

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