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Breathing Room: Why Kids Need Environmental Protections

This Earth Day, we need to be aware of the new threats to kids’ health.

For many kids, recess is the highlight of the school day. The opportunity to play outside offers a multitude of benefits that kids don't think about, from improving cardiovascular health to allowing kids to build social relationships with peers. But parents think about it. Because outdoor activity is vital to child development, parents and educators alike must be conscious of the environment in which kids play, from the quality of the air to the content of the soil.

Earth Day is being recognized around the world this week, and there's much to celebrate. We've come a long way since the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969 and since bays and rivers across the country smelled for miles from untreated sewage and runoff. And renewable energies such as wind and solar and electric vehicles are increasingly commonplace. But, with so much work still to do to protect our air, land, and water, elected officials in Washington are beginning to roll back protections that matter to all of us -- but especially to our kids. We need to pay careful attention to what's going on.

President Trump signed an executive order in March aimed at weakening the Clean Power Plan, which was designed to ameliorate pollution by lowering carbon emissions. Additionally, his budget proposal would cut funding for environmental protection by 31 percent. This year Congress has introduced multiple bills designed to dismantle environmental protections, including one that would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, the main agency that holds polluters accountable.

Environmental protections matter to us all but are crucial for kids, who are uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of polluted air:

  • Kids breathe 50 percent more air per kilogram of body weight as compared with adults.
  • Air pollution has been associated with bronchitis and can exacerbate asthma symptoms, leading to an increase in school absences.
  • Kids living in polluted areas risk having underdeveloped lungs, which may never recover to their full capacity.
  • Minority children are disproportionately affected by pollution. One in six African-American children has asthma, with one of the factors being increased pollution in urban areas.

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Common Sense Kids Action wants to make sure that people who care about our kids understand the importance of environmental protections, are aware of new threats to kids from the rollback of environmental protections, and can take advantage of opportunities -- for parents and kids alike -- to get involved in promoting a healthier environment.

If you do one thing for Earth Day, sign up for our newsletter as a Kids Action Advocate for action alerts on what you can do to ensure that all kids can play in a clean environment.

Kelsey Kober
Policy Associate