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Pollution hits children hard

Vehicle emissions lower AQI
By: Bruce Warren Journal Staff Writer
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Polluted air has a much greater effect on children because they breathe more frequently and their lungs are still developing. With September designated Spare the Air month, there are some good things happening that will decrease the amount of air pollution in Placer County. Dr. Richard Burton, Placer County Health Officer, knows the challenges youngsters face from polluted air. Burton cites the Children’s Health study by the University of Southern California that attempts to answer the long-term health effects of air pollution on children. “Children breathe more frequently than adults and because of that are exposed to a greater volume of air,” Burton said. “Children can experience more difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, a tightness in their chest, decreased stamina and increased fatigue if they’re exposed to polluted air. The worse the polluted air is, the more likely these symptoms would occur.” The study of 5,500 children conducted by a team of scientists at USC indicated those children might suffer long-term effects. “Research indicates that children exposed over long periods of time to air pollution may have lifelong impacts and impaired breathing,” Burton said. Jamie Arno, spokeswoman for Sacramento Metro Air Quality Management District, points out that parents of children anywhere in Placer County can sign up for Air Alerts on SparetheAir.com, which has an e-mail notification system that gives the daily Air Quality Index (AQI). Also, the Auburn Journal publishes the AQI daily in the weather forecast section on page 2. “People can choose the daily AQI or they can choose to just receive a message by picking the level at which they want to be notified,” Arno said. “It’s a really good system for parents who have children with respiratory problems, because they can curb their outside activities when the Air Quality Index is high.” Skyridge Elementary School has been signed up for the air alerts for several years now, according to Principal Doris Chandler. Chandler and secretary Kelly Lardner monitor the AQI e-mail alerts on a daily basis. “If things get really bad, then our Superintendent Michele Schuetz will e-mail us to curtail activity, which means to close our big fields where they would be running,” Chandler said. According to air specialist Ann Hobbs of the Placer County Air Pollution District, air quality has varied recently. “Generally for the past few weeks, our air quality has been from good to unhealthy for sensitive individuals which would include our children whose lungs are still developing,” Hobbs said. Skyridge has 670 students from kindergarten through eighth grade and has students with breathing problems. “We have a number of children who have asthma who have to use inhalers,” Chandler said. “We are very observant of that.” Health Clerk Debby Espenson has the authority to dispense medication to the students and is available to assist children with breathing issues. “If a child is having trouble breathing, she will have them come in and lie down,” Chandler said. “She’s very observant. Children breathe much deeper than we do and take bigger breaths. You can just see their little chests expand when they are jumping or hopping.” During the smoky skies this summer, Skyridge was not in session, and Chandler does not recall any recent incident where outdoor activities for students were limited. By leaving the commuter car home just one day a week, you can prevent 55 pounds of pollution each year from being emitted to the air, according to a press release from the Sacramento Metro Air Quality Management District. “That’s a pretty high number,” Hobbs said. “It’s amazing how much pollution a car can put out.” Good news for Placer County residents in regards to air quality is Amtrak ridership has increased 33 percent over least year on the Frequent Capitol Corridor rail commuter, according to Amtrak records. More Auburn residents are also riding the bus, too, which will cut down on air pollution. “Overall this month, we have seen a 10 percent increase in ridership for the past two months,” said Megan Siren, transit manager for the Public Works Department for the City of Auburn. Reducing the number of vehicle trips will help cut down on local air pollution. “Can you flex your work schedule to reduce the number miles you are driving?” Hobbs asked. “Some have gone to longer days and others to telecommuting.” The fewer miles driven translates into less air pollution.