Asthma Elementary

TURNING CHILDREN GREEN WITH ILLNESS FROM TRAFFIC POLLUTION

It’s good to see children at Woodburn Elementary doing environmental science experiments with WVU students in Ms. Duley’s fourth-grade class, as reported in the Dominion Post today by Jim Bissett:

“Woodburn is slated to move into the Monongalia County school district’s first-ever green school during the next two years, and [Ms. Duley] wanted students thinking about the environment and what that means for their futures. …

“Their experiment with the Alka-Seltzer and sandwich bags brought it home for a class of kids in a small town with big-city gridlock during rush hour.

“The antacid tablet [WVU graduated student Jason] Burnside dissolved in a bag partially filled with water illustrated the effects of automobile emissions on the atmosphere.”

Unfortunately, in Monongalia County, when one thinks “green school” one thinks high traffic, congestion, and gridlock.

Other scientific experiments conducted outside the classroom by highly accomplished scientists show that children in schools and/or houses near high traffic and congestion (and the green school is intended to be sited at the high traffic and congested  intersection of WV 705 and US 119 on the Mileground) are exposed to the damaging effects of vehicle exhaust, which include increased rates and risk of asthma and cancer and heart and lung diseases, also harsher asthma attacks. Not only is a different green school site legally imperative, the science below shows why it is ethically imperative that the green school site be shifted away from the 705/119 intersection to a healthy and safe place.

“Diesel exhaust is especially dangerous, containing nearly 40 hazardous pollutants…. Diesel emissions increase the severity and duration of asthma attacks…. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children’s exposure to diesel exhaust particles should be decreased and that idling of diesel vehicles in places where children live and congregate should be minimized to protect their health…

– Environment and Human Health, Inc., The Harmful Effects of Vehicle Exhaust

The California Air Resources Board recently responded to growing concern over near-roadway pollution by recommending that new “sensitive land uses” such as residences, schools, day care centers, playgrounds, and medical facilities not be sited within 150 m of heavily traveled roadways. …

– Douglas Houston, MA, Paul Ong, PhD, Jun Wu, PhD andArthur Winer, PhD; “Proximity of Licensed Child Care Facilities to Near-Roadway Vehicle Pollution

“Particulate matter (PM) from diesel truck traffic poses a serious threat for young children. Exposure to particulate matter has been linked to increased hospitalization for asthma attacks for children living within 200 meters (218 yards) of roads with heavy truck or trailer traffic.”

Kathleen Welch, Assistant Prof. Dept. of Community Health/University of Maine at Farmington, Proximity of rural child care facilities to diesel truck traffic

“Although children spend only a portion of their day in child care or preschool, the hours they spend in these facilities could represent a significant proportion of their overall daily exposure to air pollution, especially if they are playing outdoors within 200 m downwind of busy roadways. …

Given that their rate of breathing is higher than that of older children or adults, young children inhale a greater volume of pollutants relative to their body mass. …

– Douglas Houston, MA, Paul Ong, PhD, Jun Wu, PhD andArthur Winer, PhD; “Proximity of Licensed Child Care Facilities to Near-Roadway Vehicle Pollution

“Chemicals in vehicle exhaust are harmful to asthmatics. Exhaust can adversely affect lung function and may promote allergic reactions and airway constriction. All vehicles, especially diesel engines, emit very fine particles that deeply penetrate lungs and inflame the circulatory system, damaging cells and causing respiratory problems.  Even short-term exposure to vehicle exhaust may harm asthmatics. Asthmatic children are particularly sensitive to air pollution

“Inhalation of vehicle emissions, even for short periods, may be harmful to asthmatics. One study found that children are 40 percent more likely to have an attack on high outdoor pollution days.

“EPA estimates that vehicle emissions account for as many as half of all cancers attributed to outdoor air pollution.”

– Environment and Human Health, Inc., The Harmful Effects of Vehicle Exhaust

Young children are particularly susceptible to air pollution given their narrow airways, higher breathing rates, and developing lungs and immune systems. …

“Available evidence shows that, among girls aged 4 months to 4 years, exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) [from vehicle exhaust] near their home or day care center may be associated with the development of wheezing bronchitis; higher levels of traffic-related air pollutants (NO2, PM2.5 [particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or smaller in size], and “soot”) are associated with wheezing, physician-diagnosed asthma, flu, serious colds, and ear, nose, and throat infections

“Recent studies suggest that vehicle-related pollutants and associated health effects in children are highly concentrated near heavily traveled roadways. Ultrafine particles, black carbon, and carbon monoxide drop to near-background levels at 200 m (650 ft) downwind from major roadways and are indistinguishable from background concentrations at 300 m downwind. An analysis of hospital admissions among children younger than 5 years in Great Britain revealed that children admitted with an asthma diagnosis were significantly more likely than children admitted for nonrespiratory reasons or children from other parts of the community to live less than 500 m from a roadway with high traffic flow (more than 24 000 vehicles per day). …

“…children may also experience significant exposures in other microenvironments such as portable classrooms, school buses, and passenger vehicles. Although children only spend a portion of their day in child care facilities or preschools, the hours spent in these facilities could represent a significant proportion of their overall daily exposure to air pollution, especially if they spend part of the day in moderate or rigorous play outdoors in high-traffic areas. Because many working parents rely on child care, the hours a child spends in a care facility often correspond to the morning or afternoon periods of peak traffic volumes when pollution levels near roadways are most elevated. …

“Atmospheric science and epidemiological studies consistently suggest that such proximity to this level of traffic is associated with high concentrations of vehicle-related pollutants and a variety of adverse health effects, particularly for young children. …

“Evidence of the high concentration of harmful air pollutants near roadways prompted the California legislature to prohibit public schools within 150 m (500 ft) of busy corridors to protect children’s health. Further pollution and exposure monitoring at child care facilities could reveal whether this legislation should be expanded to prohibit the siting of child care facilities within 200 m of major roadways, which more closely corresponds to the distance from major roadways at which vehicle-related air pollutants drop to “background” concentration levels.

– Douglas Houston, MA, Paul Ong, PhD, Jun Wu, PhD andArthur Winer, PhD; “Proximity of Licensed Child Care Facilities to Near-Roadway Vehicle Pollution

Everyone sitting in a traffic jam is getting poisoned. … A number of exhaust hydrocarbons are also toxic, some with the potential to cause cancer.”

– Stephen Gislason, MD, Air and Breathing, “Car Exhaust – Air Pollutants

People living or otherwise spending substantial time within about 200 m of highways are exposed to [vehicle] pollutants more so than persons living at a greater distance, even compared to living on busy urban streets. Evidence of the health hazards of these pollutants arises from studies that assess proximity to highways, actual exposure to the pollutants, or both. Taken as a whole, the health studies show elevated risk for development of asthma and reduced lung function in children who live near major highways. Studies of particulate matter (PM) that show associations with cardiac and pulmonary mortality also appear to indicate increasing risk as smaller geographic areas are studied, suggesting localized sources that likely include major highways. Although less work has tested the association between lung cancer and highways, the existing studies suggest an association as well.”

-Doug Brugge, John L. Durant, and Christine Rioux, “Near-highway pollutants in motor vehicle exhaust: A review of epidemiologic evidence of cardiac and pulmonary health risks

2 Responses to “Asthma Elementary”

  1. Susan Says:

    Jim Bissett also reported that the children knew the solution to the problem…. walk, skateboard, ride a bus!!!! So, why is Mon BOE moving the school to where no one can walk (except maybe 13 children from the trailer park? The kids get it, but BOE doesn’t. To be green you’ve got to walk the talk.

    • newcommunityschool Says:

      A year later, most of those children from the trailer park were evicted – Woodburn Elementary students – when Mon BOE bought half the trailer park to build a parking lot on it.


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