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Air Pollution Impact on Children’s Health in the US Essay


Introduction

Many illnesses that are widespread in the United States can be explained by environmental problems caused by various human activities (Suwanwaiphatthana, Ruangdej, & Turner-Henson 2010, p. 26). Researchers focus on the effects of air pollution on children’s health. For instance, much attention should be paid to different respiratory diseases such as asthma or bronchitis. It is possible to argue that this age group is more exposed to the negative impacts of air pollution because they spend more time outdoors.

Furthermore, they are more vulnerable because their organs such as lungs are still developing (Natural Resources Defense Council 1997). Overall, there is no single solution to this problem because it is necessary to introduce different regulations and interventions that can reduce the emissions of harmful substances into the air. Moreover, people should become more informed about the impacts of air pollution on children’s health.

The first section of this report will provide quantitative data illustrating that the quality of air in many parts of America is considerably impaired. The second part will highlight various causes of this problem such as vehicle emissions, the extensive use of fossil fuels, and the industrial activities of other countries. Furthermore, this report will demonstrate how this issue affects the health of many American children. The fourth section will illustrate various approaches that can reduce the dangerous effects of air pollution. Finally, this paper will provide an evaluation of possible solutions.

Problem

During the last four decades, the government has adopted many regulations and laws that could reduce the emissions of harmful substances. Some of them have been effective because there have been considerable reductions in the emission of such substances like sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, lead, particulate matter, and so forth (Environmental Protection Agency 2010, p. 6). For instance, lead pollution was reduced by more than 100 percent during the period between 1990 and 2010 (Environmental Protection Agency 2010, p. 6).

These outcomes can also be explained by the profound transformation of the American economy during the last three decades. Many American companies decided to outsource their manufacturing activities to other countries such as China, India, or Taiwan. They could do so due to the elimination of trade barriers (Sutter 2012). Nevertheless, the problem of air pollution remains very acute. The quality of the air varies dramatically across the United States.

For example, one can mention the differences between urban and rural parts of the country. Metropolitan areas are usually more influenced by environmental problems, especially air pollution. Additionally, there are some states that are much more polluted. In particular, it is critical to consider metropolitan areas in California. In these parts of the country, the level of air pollution is much higher. Overall, more than 60 percent of the American population lives in the areas in which the quality of the air does not meet the federal standards (Sethi 2013). More than 138 million people including children live in the communities affected by the particle or ozone pollution (American Lung Association 2015, p. 26). Thus, they are more exposed to various health risks such as asthma (Suwanwaiphatthana, Ruangdej, & Turner-Henson 2010, p. 26).

Causes

Overall, there are several factors that contribute to air pollution. One of them is the growing number of vehicles owned by American citizens. There were 424 cars per 1000 people in 2010 (Garrett 2014, p. 1094). These vehicles can emit such substances as carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and various precursors of ozone (Natural Resources Defense Council 1997). Certainly, there have been various improvements in the fuel efficiency of modern vehicles.

Moreover, many consumers want to purchase hybrid cars. Nevertheless, the growing number of vehicles in the United States contributes to air pollution. This problem is particularly acute in large urban areas in which the concentration of automobiles is much higher. Additionally, the pollution of the atmosphere is caused by the extensive use of fossil fuels (American Lung Association 2015, p. 31). Currently, American society has not made the most widespread use of renewable energy technologies. The environment of the United States is also affected by industrial activities in Asian countries, especially China. In this case, much attention should be paid to the black carbon pollution that influences the Pacific coast (Sutter 2012, p. 98).

Effects

It is possible to identify several dangerous effects of air pollution. Medical workers and scholars focus on the needs of children whose health is more susceptible to different respiratory diseases. Unlike adults, they have narrower airways; moreover, their lungs are still developing (Natural Resources Defense Council 1997). They are usually more responsive to pollutants in the air, and the needs of this age group should be examined in greater detail. As a rule, air pollution exacerbates the effects of many respiratory diseases such as asthma (Suwanwaiphatthana, Ruangdej, & Turner-Henson 2010, p. 26). These children are more exposed to various threats if they live in large urban areas. They are adversely affected by particulate matter that can be found in the air.

Furthermore, researchers focus on the dangerous effects of nitrogen dioxide that increases the risk of bronchitis and pneumonia (Suwanwaiphatthana, Ruangdej, & Turner-Henson 2010, p. 26). Moreover, air pollution leads to various respiratory allergies that considerably impair the lives of children (Parker, Akinbami, & Woodruff 2009, p. 140). For example, they often have to stay away from school for a long time. Moreover, prenatal exposure to such pollutants as particulate matter and black carbon makes people more susceptible to hypertension.

It is also necessary to consider such a risk as to the death of infants (Sow 2006). Furthermore, many pregnancy problems are associated with exposure to harmful substances polluting the air. Researchers also note that the presence of lead in the air can result in the neurological illnesses of children (Suwanwaiphatthana, Ruangdej, & Turner-Henson 2010, p. 26). Finally, children, who are continuously exposed to the polluted air, are more likely to experience fatigue (Suwanwaiphatthana, Ruangdej, & Turner-Henson 2010, p. 29).

Certainly, researchers note that they cannot always prove “causal” relations between air pollution and various illnesses (Schwartz 2004, p. 1037). Nevertheless, there is a high correlation between these phenomena. Children living in impoverished communities are more likely to suffer from the effects of environmental pollution. The problem is that they cannot get timely access to health care. Moreover, their families can be affected by such issues as crime, poverty, drug abuse, or alcoholism.

Solution

There are several approaches that can be useful for minimizing the impacts of this problem. In this case, a single method may not yield positive results. Possible recommendations can be divided into two groups. Some of them should be considered by policy-makers and regulating agencies while others will be intended for healthcare professionals.

The society should make more extensive use of renewable energy technologies that are critical for reducing the emission of dangerous pollutants (Miller & Spoolman 2011, p. 408). For instance, this approach is necessary for finding a substitute for fossil fuels that contribute to the pollution of the air. The task of policy-makers is to provide additional incentives for using these technologies (Foster, Gutierrez, & Kumar 2009).

For example, the government should motivate consumers to buy renewable energy technologies such as solar panels. Moreover, citizens should be encouraged to purchase hybrid cars. This goal can be attained by lowering taxes paid by the companies that manufacture such products. Scholars insist on the creation of mechanisms that keep the prices “artificially low” to increase the popularity of such technologies (Miller & Spoolman 2011, p. 430).

The main effect of such interventions is that individuals and families will have more opportunities for buying eco-friendly products. As a result, urban communities will be less exposed to air pollution caused by vehicles. Researchers also argue that the government should “phase out” subsidies offered to industries that rely on fossil fuels (Miller & Spoolman 2011, p. 430). Furthermore, policy-makers should adopt higher environmental standards that should be met by manufacturing companies (Miller & Spoolman 2011, p. 486).

For instance, the government can set higher fuel-efficiency standards for the automotive industry. This initiative can contribute to the reduction of emissions produced by vehicles. Companies will be more willing to adopt these standards if there are “voluntary pollution reduction programs” that encourage businesses to embrace better environmental policies (Foster, Gutierrez, & Kumar 2009, p. 192). Moreover, environmental agencies should concentrate on monitoring the quality of the air in different parts of the United States. Apart from that, it is vital to investigate every case of industrial air pollution because this practice can lead to better environmental protection of at-risk neighborhoods.

Medical workers will also need to take an active part in this program. They should educate parents about the dangerous effects of air pollution on the health of children (Suwanwaiphatthana, Ruangdej, & Turner-Henson 2010).

These educational activities will change people’s views on the importance of environmental safety. Moreover, they will be more willing to use eco-friendly technologies. Healthcare providers should urge parents to seek medical assistance as soon as possible if they notice the signs of respiratory illnesses (Suwanwaiphatthana, Ruangdej, & Turner-Henson 2010). Thus, many children will receive timely treatment. Apart from that, these professionals should implement outreach programs to monitor the health of people living in communities affected by poverty. Thus, they will give medical assistance to children whose parents may struggle with such problems as alcohol abuse or drug addiction.

Overall, the new policies are likely to influence various stakeholders. In particular, separate individuals and their families may be less exposed to the impacts of environmental problems. Furthermore, society will become more aware of the need to improve the quality of the air. Local and federal governments will have to work together to create more efficient policies.

Evaluation of the solution

The proposed approaches are beneficial because they can remove a broad range of factors that contribute to the pollution of the air. They can address such problems as unsafe environmental practices, the use of fossil fuels, and lack of parental awareness about the dangerous effects of air pollution. Admittedly, these methods cannot yield rapid improvements. Nevertheless, this strategy can bring tangible improvements in the long term. The main limitation of the new policies is that they may provoke the resistance of many stakeholders. Leading executives of companies may argue that new environmental standards will undermine their operations (Miller & Spoolman 2011).

For instance, these enterprises may need to incur considerable costs to adopt new methods of production. Thus, they may oppose new regulations. It is one of the difficulties that should be anticipated. However, the government can cope with this problem by providing incentives to these enterprises. For instance, policy-makers should consider the need to lower taxes. This step is necessary for finding a compromise between the needs of businesses and the new environmental policies of the state. The primary task is to reconcile potential conflicts of interest. Thus, it is vital to involve different stakeholders in the discussion and evaluation of new practices.

Conclusion

Overall, this discussion indicates that air pollution poses considerable challenges because it profoundly influences the health of children. As it has been said before, the presence of dangerous substances in the air complicates many respiratory diseases (Suwanwaiphatthana, Ruangdej, & Turner-Henson 2010). Additionally, there are various pollutants that can increase the risk of allergies (Parker, Akinbami, & Woodruff 2009). Apart from that, in some cases, air pollution can permanently damage the development of a child, especially if it results in neurological impairments. Thus, there is a need for a comprehensive solution that can improve the quality of air in the United States.

It is necessary to focus on the adoption of renewable energy technologies (Miller & Spoolman 2011). The government should set and enforce higher environmental standards. It is critical to focus on the problems faced by communities in which the level of pollution is considerably higher. This intervention requires the cooperation of various stakeholders such as legislators, environmental agencies, medical workers, and businesses. Their task is to develop the most optimal policies that will be implemented at different levels. The proposed solution will change the practices of legislators, medical workers, and enterprises because they will need to adopt a more responsible attitude towards the protection of the environment.

References

American Lung Association 2015, . Web.

Environmental Protection Agency 2010, . Web.

Foster, A, Gutierrez, E & Kumar, N 2009, ‘Voluntary Compliance, Pollution Levels, and Infant Mortality in Mexico’, American Economic Review, vol. 99, no. 2, pp.191-197.

Garrett, M 2014, Encyclopedia of Transportation: Social Science and Policy, SAGE Publications, New York.

Miller, G & Spoolman, G 2011, Living in the Environment: Principles, Connections, and Solutions, Cengage Learning, New York.

Natural Resources Defense Council 1997, Our Children at Risk. Web.

Parker, J, Akinbami, L & Woodruff, T 2009, ‘Air pollution and childhood respiratory allergies in the United States’, Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 117, no. 1, pp. 140-147.

Schwartz, J 2004, ‘Air Pollution and Children’s Health’, Pediatrics, vol. 113, no. 3, pp. 1037 -1043.

Sethi, R 2013, Air pollution: Sources, Prevention and Health Effects. Nova Science Publishers, New York.

Sow, M 2006, The Effects of Air Pollution on Infant Health: An Empirical Evaluation of Georgia. Web.

Sutter, R 2012, Chinese Foreign Relations: Power and Policy since the Cold War, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, New York.

Suwanwaiphatthana, W, Ruangdej, K, & Turner-Henson, A 2010, ‘Outdoor Air Pollution and Children’s Health’, Pediatric Nursing, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 25-32.

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IvyPanda. (2020, August 12). Air Pollution Impact on Children’s Health in the US. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/air-pollution-impact-on-childrens-health-in-the-us/

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Air Pollution Impact on Children’s Health in the US." August 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/air-pollution-impact-on-childrens-health-in-the-us/.

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