Kidsdata.org offers the following measures of air quality:
Note: The information presented for this topic is not exhaustive of all relevant data, and has limitations. For example, indoor air quality, an important factor in children's environmental health, is not measured. In addition, not all counties are monitored, and for a number of counties, the most recent data are not yet available, which prohibits computing state-level results.
Kidsdata offers these and other data to draw attention to the environmental influences on children's health and to encourage exploration of the issues. These indicators will be revised as new data emerge from initiatives such as the National Children's Study and are updated in the California Environmental Health Tracking Program site.
studies have shown that environmental pollutants put children at risk
of developing serious illnesses (1, 2, 3). Children are especially
vulnerable to toxic substances as their systems are more fragile and
their skin is more permeable (2). Exposure to air pollution from
traffic, lead in old paints and plastic, and pesticides are related to
higher levels of respiratory disease (e.g., asthma), cognitive defects
(e.g., developmental delays), and cancer (1, 2).
Long-term exposure to high levels of ozone (the primary constituent of
smog) and high concentrations of fine particulate matter in the air
(i.e., soot), largely from motor vehicle exhaust, is associated with a
variety of breathing and heart problems (4, 5). Children living within
75 meters of a major road are at significantly higher risk for
developing asthma and have a greater number of asthma-related emergency
room visits than children who live farther from traffic (6). Shifting
heat and wind-patterns also affect the concentration of pollutants in
the air and ocean (5).
For more information on air quality see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). National report on human exposure to environmental chemicals. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2007). A decade of children's environmental health research: Highlights from EPA's Science to Achieve Results Program. Retrieved from: http://epa.gov/ncer/publications/research_results_synthesis/ceh_report_508.pdf
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2007). America’s children and the environment report. Retrieved from: http://www.epa.gov/economics/children/
- California Department of Public Health. (2009). Air contaminants: Particulate matter. Retrieved from: http://www.ehib.org/page.jsp?page_key=90#pm_health
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2011). Ground-level ozone. Retrieved from: http://www.epa.gov/glo/
- McConnell, et al. (2006). Traffic, susceptibility, and childhood asthma. Environmental Health Perspectives, 114(5), 766–772. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1459934/
Pound for pound, children are more vulnerable to toxic chemicals in the environment than are adults (1). Toxins that may be present in the air they breathe, in water and beverages they drink, in the food they eat and in the ground on which they play can harm their health.
According to research and experts, options to improve children’s environmental health, overall, could include:
- Enforcing existing laws and regulations that limit vehicle emissions,
agricultural practices that generate dust and pesticide exposure, and
industrial practices that generate air pollution (2)
- Establishing and implementing improved standards and guidelines for school environmental health, addressing areas such as building ventilation, mold prevention, routine cleaning and maintenance, managing chemical exposure, and controlling pests (3)
- Creating healthier school environments by setting appropriate
construction standards and fixing structural problems in existing
- Focusing broadly on multiple deficiencies and hazards in housing environments and early childhood settings—for example, advancing strategic partnerships among organizations focused on health, education, environmental protection, and housing—instead of focusing on single factors, such as lead or asbestos exposure (4, 5)
- Promoting a research agenda that examines the connections between the built environment and physical and behavioral health, to inform land use policy and regulation of environmental toxins (6)
For more policy ideas on environmental health, see the California Adolescent Health Collaborative, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Homes Initiative, the California Department of Public Health’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch, and the Center for Children’s Environmental Health. Also see policy implications under the Asthma topic on kidsdata.org.
Sources for this narrative:
- Landrigan, P. J. & Carlson, J. E. (1995). Environmental policy and children’s health. Future of Children, 5(2), 34-52. Princeton University and Brookings Institution. Retrieved from: http://futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/docs/05_02_04.pdf
- Salam, M. T., et al. (2008). Recent evidence for adverse effects of residential proximity to traffic sources on asthma. Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, 14(1), 3-8. Retrieved from: http://sunscreamer.com/publiccomment/Documents/salam%20mt%20traffic%20asthma%20pulm%20opin%202008.pdf
- California Air Resources Board and California Department of Health Care Services. (2004). Report to the California legislature: Environmental health conditions in California’s portable classrooms. Retrieved from: http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/apr/reports/l3006.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy homes initiative. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/healthyhomes.htm
- Bachrach, A., et al. (2010). Environmental health in early childhood systems building: opportunities for states. National Center for Children in Poverty. Retrieved from: http://www.nccp.org/publications/pdf/text_981.pdf
- Lane, S. D., et al. (2008). Environmental injustice: childhood lead poisoning, teen pregnancy, and tobacco. Journal of Adolescent Health, 42(1), 43-49. Retrieved from: http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X%2807%2900294-7/abstract
In 2010, California had an average of 15 days with ozone concentrations above the U.S. standard, a decline from 39 in 2002. Of the 49 California counties with available data in 2010, 12 did not have any recorded days when ozone levels exceeded regulatory standards. However, 5 counties had more than 50 such days.
California’s annual average concentration of particulate matter in the air has declined from 13.5 micrograms per cubic meter in 2001 to 8.9 in 2010, similar to national trends. Particulate matter concentration levels also vary widely among counties for which data are available. In 2010, the county-level annual average concentration of particulate matter ranged from 3.1 micrograms per cubic meter (far below the federally recommended limit of 15.0) to 17.5 micrograms per cubic meter.
Note: Children’s environmental health is an emerging area of research, and the data currently available give a limited picture of how children in California are faring. In many cases, county-level data are not specific enough to inform conclusions about children’s health risks, but they can spark further inquiry.