Be aware of air – Part 2
In last week’s post I wrote about the potential dangers to children’s developing brains of air pollution and listed the towns in South Africa with the highest levels of measured pollution.
Most of us lack the freedom to live and work according to our choice. More often we find ourselves in towns and cities because of the nature of our work and the availability of jobs. If we are forced to stay in an area said to be heavily air polluted, are there ways of reducing the risk that pollution carries to our family’s health – especially our vulnerable children?
Here are some suggestions:
First and foremost, you need to become an activist in supporting efforts to improve our air quality because you won’t be able to change the situation by yourself.
Improving air quality means replacing fossil fuel combustion (i.e. burning fuel, such as coal, wood and so on) with cleaner sources of energy, including solar and wind. Support organisations fighting for this. On a note closer to home, be careful of fires (heating or braai) that are used in areas not well ventilated. Our increasing use of indoor braai rooms may add to the poor quality of air in our homes.
Green areas, such as parks and trees within towns and cities can improve air quality, so encourage your local municipality to develop green belts and recreation spots. Wherever possible, plant trees and shrubs in your own garden. Our easy-growing plant, the ‘Spekboom’ is a natural supplier of oxygen – every garden should have a few!
Encourage recycling. Waste that is burned in the proximity of living areas releases toxic chemicals that can reach children’s lungs. Although lead in the air has been reduced since its removal from petrol, if car and cell phone batteries are burned, lead can be released into the air. Use the battery disposal units set up in some of our supermarkets.
Try to reduce children’s exposure to air pollution. Wherever possible, avoid travelling at times where roads are congested. If your home or child’s school is in an area of severe pollution, strenuous activity outdoors should be avoided. In spite of the importance of sport and play, exercise in harmful air should be minimal – especially if your child has a medical condition such as asthma or another respiratory ailment. Make sure your child’s school or daycare centre has a well-greened play area with trees and plants.
The quality of air inside school buildings and other community structures can be improved by ventilation and air filtration systems. Mention this at your school and help work towards implementation of such methods.
Other indoor air pollutants should be avoided too. The bad effects of second-hand cigarette smoke on children’s health is well-documented so homes and cars should be smoke-free zones. Other common sources of potentially harmful inhalants include certain cleaning materials. Use products that are manufactured to be harmless to our bodies and brains.
Lastly, but by no means the least important, strive to maintain optimal levels of health in your children. Healthy diets and lifestyles build resistant immune systems and bodies that can help reduce the overall impact of air pollution. The healthier a child is, the less likely that he or she will develop health complications due to the exposure to air pollution. This is partly why Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) continually encourages healthy eating patterns and other tried and tested ways of living that contribute to optimal brain development and function.