Pollution is doing a lot of damage to our health and especially to that of children. Precisely to try to stem this phenomenon, pediatricians and neonatologists have taken the field with a consensus document in which there are several concrete proposals. Also fundamental are some tips that all parents can immediately put into practice to protect the health of their children.
The effects of environmental pollution are there for all to see and, in the case of children, several researches over the years have highlighted the possible serious consequences of early exposure to smog. For example, some studies have linked pollution to neurodevelopmental disorders, childhood obesity, impaired lung function, asthma and otitis media.
(Also read: From asthma to premature birth, the side effects of air pollution on babies right from the womb ).
According to experts, the most harmful effects are highlighted in the first 1000 days of life, ie from birth up to 2 years. This is because it is a crucial period for the correct development of the organs, on which unfortunately the polluting particles go to act.
To try to make a contribution to the fight against environmental pollution, the main scientific societies and associations in the pediatric and neonatological field have drawn up a consensus document .
The document reads:
Children are particularly vulnerable during fetal development and in their early years, when their organs (for example, the lungs and central nervous system) are still maturing; they can spend a lot of time outdoors, playing and exercising in potentially polluted air; are subject to a long period of exposure to pollutants. In addition to the quality of the air outside, the quality of the air in confined spaces (such as homes, schools, gyms, meeting areas, workplaces) where children and pregnant women can spend a good part of their time can be relevant. day and exposure to indoor pollutants is relevant in quantity and duration. This document focuses on outdoor exposure.
Specifically, the Cultural Association of Pediatricians (Acp) and the Group of Pediatricians Per Un Mondo Possibile, the Italian Federation of Pediatric Doctors (Fimp), the Italian Society of Perinatal Medicine (Simp), the Italian Society of Neonatology (Sin) and the Society Italiana di Pediatria (Sip) are committed to leading the change, obviously remembering that this must be done both at the national level (with the collaboration of the Government) and at the individual level.
On this last aspect, the “First 1000 Days” project has drawn up a list of advice for parents.
- How to limit children’s exposure to air pollution
- The commitment of pediatricians
- Improve knowledge and skills
- Disseminating information that raises people’s awareness
- Inform about the dangers of air pollution
- Promote the issues addressed in the document
- Be the first to adopt the correct behaviors
- Encourage change elsewhere too
- Disseminate the initiatives
- Carry out advocacy activities at the political and regulatory level
How to limit children’s exposure to air pollution
These are the tips from the experts:
- Find out about the pollution levels of the city where you live:with particular attention to the levels of PM10 and summer ozone. It can be done by consulting the websites of the Regional Environmental Protection Agencies. Based on these data, avoid letting children go out (especially if suffering from respiratory diseases), on days when pollution levels are very high.
- Walk more with children: at the right times and choosing routes without traffic or with minimal traffic. To take them to play in the park or do sports in the open air, it is always good to choose to pass through less polluted areas and on roads with little traffic.
- Attend schools and activities in your area: so that you can move as much as possible on foot or by bicycle.
- In summer, avoid outdoor activities during central hours: from 12 to 16, in fact, ozone levels are very high especially in parks, in peripheral and extra-urban areas. In the summer, therefore, it is good to wake up early, taking advantage of the early hours of the morning to go out, when ozone levels are lower.
- In winter, on the contrary, it is better to go out during the hottest hours. In fact, experts explain that “ with the cold the particulates condense to form aerosol droplets that are more easily inhaled ”.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, foods rich in antioxidants.
- Pay attention to the emissions of your car: unfortunately, children also inhale the emissions of the family car whose concentrations are greater inside the passenger compartment than those present in the outside air. Another good reason to move as much as possible on foot.
The commitment of pediatricians
In general, improving air quality and consequently public health is possible with interventions on infrastructures: school buildings, pedestrianization of roads near schools, creation of cycle paths, development of green spaces in urban areas and more.
Equally important, however, is the role of the aforementioned companies, made up of pediatricians and experts who are in direct contact with families and who, as stated in the consensus document, are committed on various fronts.
Improve knowledge and skills
In particular on:
- Recognition and management of the health effects of exposure to air pollutants.
- Correct collection of the anamnesis to determine the individual risk of exposure to atmospheric pollutants.
- Effective actions that can be taken both at the political level (national and local) and at the individual level, to reduce exposure to air pollutants.
- Methods of communicating the environmental risk and the actions that can be taken to mitigate the effects of exposure to pollution.
Disseminating information that raises people’s awareness
In particular, to convey information on the actions that can be implemented at the political level (both national and local) to reduce air pollution.
Inform about the dangers of air pollution
Not only to inform about the dangers but also to help protect yourself, especially if you are in particular clinical conditions that can be caused or worsen by air pollution and if you live in very polluting areas. All this should be correlated with practical advice to reduce exposure such as limiting the use of private cars in favor of sustainable mobility but also informing families that it is possible to monitor the daily forecasts on pollution levels at different times of the day. day.
Promote the issues addressed in the document
Promote the issues but also the commitments undertaken in other scientific societies that deal with the health of women and children.
Be the first to adopt the correct behaviors
Set a good example, therefore, considering that pediatricians and neonatologists are important points of reference for families.
Encourage change elsewhere too
For example in the workplace and more generally in the National Health System.
Disseminate the initiatives
It is about disseminating initiatives both at local and national level to improve air quality, indicating the relevant resources to families.
Carry out advocacy activities at the political and regulatory level
For example, to push to adapt the current legal reference values of the main atmospheric pollutants to the pediatric age.