Poor air quality is not always easy to see. In fact, when it’s sunny and clear outside, there can still be high levels of invisible pollutants such as ozone and fine particles in the air. The outdoor air quality is influenced by a combination of pollutants from auto exhaust, power plants, oil refineries and airport fumes. Poor air quality has been shown to cause asthma exacerbations. Many people don’t know that they can or should take action to protect themselves or others with asthma. Thomas McKeon, a graduate student of the University of Pennsylvania, in partnership with the CEET and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), has designed a project to educate staff at early learning centers about how to protect the children in their care from poor outdoor air quality.
Mr. McKeon designed a presentation that includes resources available to the staffers like free air quality alerts via an app from the EPA and daily emails from the Air Quality Partnership. Mr. McKeon hopes that his presentation will empower day care providers to avoid taking children outside in the afternoon of poor air quality days and teach parents about the health impact that poor air quality has on children and how to use the air quality index. To test whether the approach is working, Mr. McKeon administered pre and post presentation surveys (administered 6 weeks apart) to the staffers to measure their gained knowledge of poor outdoor air quality, their use of the air quality monitoring resources, and if the staffers shared those resources with parents and others. This project is ongoing and has been submitted to the American Public Health Association for presentation at the October conference.
The populations that are most affected by poor air quality are children, people with respiratory complications, such as asthma, the elderly and outdoor workers. The City of Philadelphia has asthma rates that are 2-3 times higher than the rest of Pennsylvania. Asthma can cause children to miss school days, outdoor play and social interactions, may lower self-esteem, and could cause death.
Sign up for Air Quality Alerts so that you know the quality of the air where you live here.