How does environmental air pollution impact child health in the US

Prepare: Air pollution plays a central role in the discussion on the interrelationship between global environmental change and human health. It is important, however, that you first understand how human activities around the globe have resulted in the increased emission of greenhouse gases and aerosols (small particles), which are accelerating the disruption to Earth’s climate (Samuel and Aaron, 2013). There are four greenhouse gases produced through human activities; however, carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary gas emitted through the burning of fossil fuels in power plants, burning gasoline in transportation, and deforestation (oceanesrvice.noaa.gov). Although CO2 is naturally released through the ocean and vegetation, human activities since the Industrial Revolution have upset the balance of the carbon cycle and have led to very high levels of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. In fact the last time the Earth has seen levels this high was in the Eocene when the sea level was 100 meters above current levels and the ice caps were nonexistent (Samuel and Aaron, 2013). We are now seeing the effect of greenhouse gases on the climate in many ways including global warming. For the past 40 years global temperatures have risen and the hottest year on record was 2015 followed by 2014, 2010, and 2013 (ncdc.noaa.gov).

As we progress through this course you will see how climate change is affecting the environment and human health in many direct and indirect ways. This week, however, we will examine how air pollution is impacting human health, and in particular child health, in the home. In the article, the coming health crisis: indirect health effects of global climate change, Samuel and Aaron provide a list of the health consequences of air pollution which include (2013):

  • The formation of ground-level ozone, the major cardiorespiratory toxin in smog, is coupled to temperature particularly as temperatures rise above 90°F (32°C).
  • Climate change has brought about an earlier start to spring and later end to fall, and these changes to seasonality, along with higher CO2 concentrations, yield both longer pollen seasons and more pollen production from many allergenic plants.
  • Allergic respiratory disease, particularly asthma, is already associated with a quarter of a million deaths annually worldwide.
  • The frequency and extent of forest fires is expected to rise, generating large amounts of air pollutants, including potent lung irritants (such as acrolein and other aldehydes), carcinogens (such as formaldehyde and benzene) and fine particulates (PM 2.5) which are known to increase risk of cardiorespiratory disease and death.

In your discussion post you will be focusing on the harmful effects of environmental air pollution, but also indoor air pollution caused by solid fuel use. Many children die each year from dangerous sources of household fuel used to keep houses warm and cook food. Solid fuels produce high levels of smoke which can lead to chronic respiratory conditions, cataracts, lung cancer, and heart disease (who.org). Indoor pollution has also been linked to issues during pregnancy such as low birth rate and perinatal mortality, tuberculosis, and cervical cancer (who.org).

First, read this article on the direct health effects of climate change

  • Samuel, S.M. & Aaron, B. (2013). The Coming health crisis: Indirect health effects of global climate change (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. The Scientist. Retrieved from: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/29429/title/The-Coming-Health-Crisis/

Then, review the following required resources on indoor air pollution

  • World Health Organization (2006). Fuel for Life: Household Energy and Health (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Pages 7-25). Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/indoorair/publications/fuelforlife/en/
  • Dasgupta, S., Wheeler, D., Hug, M. & Khaliquzzaman, M. (2009). Improving indoor air quality for poor families: a controlled experiment in Bangladesh. Indoor Air, 19(1), 22-32. Doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0668.2008.00558.x
  • Smith, A. (2006). Amy Smith—Simple designs that could save millions of children’s lives [Video file]. Retrieved from https://fod.infobase.com/OnDemandEmbed.aspx?Token=48049&aid=18596&Plt=FOD&loid=0&w=640&h=480&ref=

Last, review the following required resources on the impact of air pollution on child health

  • Bunyavanich, S. et al. (2003). The Impact of Climate Change on Child Health (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. Ambulatory Pediatrics 2003; 3, 44-52. Retrieved from: http://www.chgeharvard.org/sites/default/files/resources/Climate change_childhealth_supinda_banerjee_ambulatory paediatrics.pdf
  • Nelson, Z. (Director), Patterson, H. (Producer). (2009). Shelter in place: Living in the shadow of the petrochemical industry. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://fod.infobase.com/OnDemandEmbed.aspx?Token=42253&aid=18596&Plt=FOD&loid=0&w=640&h=480&ref=

 

Reflect: As you review the required readings and watch the videos consider the following:

  • How does indoor air pollution impact child health around the world?
  • How does environmental air pollution impact child health in the US?
  • What role do socio-economics, policy decisions, and race play in the ability of people to respond to health issues caused by air pollution?
  • Is there a difference in a national (American) and Global response to these issues?

 

Write: In this discussion post you will focus on the harmful effects of indoor air pollution caused by solid fuel use as well as environmental air pollution. Using the required readings provide background information on environmental and indoor air pollution and its impact on child health. In your response consider the role socio-economics, policy decision, and race play in each scenario? Then answer the following two questions.

  • In the movie, Shelter in Place, we learn that the refineries give people money after upsets in exchange for their signing away their right to sue the company in the future. One resident of the Carver Terrace complex stated that “they sedate you with their little checks.” How are the residents leveraging their future health and that of their children with their current state of poverty?
  • In the movie, Simple designs that could save millions of children’s lives, MIT professor Amy Smith has designed culturally appropriate and economically feasible solutions to household energy sources. What problems could she potentially face when trying to get the local population to adopt these solutions?

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