Summer means playing outside, swimming at the pool, and, according to the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, unique climate impacts to children. Allergies, asthma, heat-related illness, and bug bites that can lead to illnesses like Lyme Disease all increase in the warm summer months. Around Mother’s Day, we discussed how American moms are especially aware of the impacts climate change is having on their children. During the shift to summer vacations, it is especially important for everyone to be aware of the climate impacts children face this summer, and more importantly, what we can do to prevent those impacts.
Air quality is an increasingly concerning issue for parents. Our reliance on burning fossil fuels for energy pollutes the air and leads to further climate damage. As climate change extends the summer heat, and the increases in carbon dioxide feed allergens like ragweed, we see longer and more severe pollen seasons. Together, the pollen and the pollution have a chronic negative impact on children’s respiratory health. The lengthened summer season also leads to an increase in mosquitoes, ticks, and rodents, all of which can carry harmful diseases which can spread to children playing outdoors.
What is to be done to address these health impacts? First, you can stay informed and updated on air quality via alerts from the AirNow webpage. Children, inherently more sensitive to air pollution because of their developing lungs, should limit time outside on days labelled “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” Second, you can learn how to reduce your carbon footprint (and thus improve air quality) by visiting the American Public Health Association’s climate page or reading more resources on Climate for Health’s webpage. Third, gear up for climate conversations with ecoAmerica’s Turning Panic into Progress talking points. Finally, engage in local and national advocacy efforts to move towards equitable clean energy solutions and improved air quality. This applies to parents and kids. The recently published piece, “The Case of Juliana v. U.S. — Children and the Health Burdens of Climate Change” in The New England Journal of Medicine outlines the specific impacts climate change has on children’s health in the context of a federal court case spearheaded by children and adolescents claiming the U.S. government’s inaction on addressing climate change violates their constitutional right to life, liberty, and property.
Climate for Health’s sister program, Blessed Tomorrow, recently released their new guide, Moving Forward: A Guide to Climate Action for your Congregation and Community, which includes prevention, preparedness, and advocacy steps. A Climate for Health guide is in the works, so stay tuned!
The Climate for Health program offers tools, resources, and communications to support visible climate leadership, and is partnering with the American Lung Association through the Year of Air Pollution and Health to empower public health professionals across the country to act on climate.