It’s no secret that air pollution is harmful to individuals’ health, but studies have also shown that dirty air can be extremely detrimental to the lung development, overall health and mental well-being of children. Children who are ages 10 to 18 and who go to school 500-or-less feet from roadways that carry more than 100,000 cars a day, will have reduced lung function, according to researchers at the University of Southern California who completed two major studies in both 2004 and 2007.
Long-term risks of asthma and reduced lung development are among the most prominent dangers from being exposed to fine particles (aka, “particulate matter”) released from internal combustion car engines into the air. Other particles such as airborne asbestos fibers released from asbestos-containing products, pose even great health risks. If a child inhales particulate matter of airborne asbestos fibers they can develop severe respiratory health concerns and even face a mesothelioma cancer diagnosis with limited life expectancy up to 10-50 years later. Another study from 2015 found that air pollution damages the white matter of unborn babies’ brains whose moms were exposed to bad air, and these white matter abnormalities can lead to issues with slowed thinking, attention deficit disorder, and even aggression or rule-breaking behavior.
These abnormalities on the brain continue to develop in children who were around air pollution the first five years of their lives. Additionally, those who were introduced to high levels of pollutants during their first year have double the risk of being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder than children living with less polluted air, according to a study conducted by a professor at Johns Hopkins University.
Because a large majority of inner cities lack significant funding, many of them have no choice but to build schools and pre-schools near high traffic roadways, which exposes kids to toxins anytime they’re outside. Even creating makeshift barriers, such as planting trees and other thick shrubbery around the school or keeping kids inside on particularly high-pollutant days, doesn’t remove the students completely from the dangers of air pollution.
So, how can we fix this difficult and complex issue and ensure the health of our children? There are systemic fixes—like working with your city to relocate schools or urging politicians to pass laws to clean up diesel truck emissions—and there are choices individuals can make to move toward a cleaner future, such as driving an electric vehicle (EV).
Introducing new laws or amending existing ones can seem overwhelming to the general population, though, so some might say baby steps is the way to cleaner air. One such baby step, both on a personal and community scale, is investing in an electric vehicle.
Although the cost of an electric vehicle might be slightly higher than a regular, gas-powered car, an EV driver could use 6,100 less gallons of gasoline and save up to $13,000 on fuel costs during the span of the electric vehicle’s “life.”
With the increased consumer interest in EVs and the influx of EV charging stations around the country (find one for your car using the EV Connect smartphone app!), these impactful vehicles are becoming more commonplace and, therefore, more affordable for car buyers. The U.S. News and World Report states that the top-selling affordable EV in America is a Nisson Leaf, which has a starting MSRP of $29,010. You can also get a Chevy Volt, a hybrid, for less than $35,000 or a Kia Soul for less than $32,000, which is all immensely worthwhile and meaningful for the peace of mind that comes from an emission-less vehicle and savings from the lack of fuel costs.