Air Quality and Child Safety

Let’s review 2 recent medical studies that can offer guidance on an important public policy issue.  The Lancet, a respected international medical journal, reported that worldwide >4 million children develop asthma annually from exposure to air pollution.  This represents 13% of new asthma diagnoses across the globe; the US was 3rd WORST in air quality (traffic fumes) caused asthma in this study.  Specifically nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentration was the main culprit, but the study notes a strong correlation between NO2 and CO2 levels.

The occurrence, needless to say, was greater in urban compared to more rural areas, with the worst US cities being NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. Quoting the last sentence of the article–“Traffic emissions should be a target for exposure mitigations strategies.”

The second study, in the journal Environmental Research and conducted by the University of California, Merced and the National Institute of Health, analyzed data that calculated proximity to major roads and then compared parents’ reports of child development over their first 3 years. The investigators reported that being near major roads increased exposure to particulate matter (“PM2.5”)  and ozone, both prenatally and for those young children, was associated with developmental delay and impaired communication skills;  the incidence of these problems may double as a result of exposure to environmental hazards, the study suggests.  Again, the concluding sentence–“efforts to minimize air pollution exposure during critical development windows may be warranted.”

Consider this information in light of the present Administration’s proposal to freeze fuel emission standards in the year 2021 (as opposed to the present schedule to mandate greater efficiency standards through 2035). Their stated reason is that increasing those standards, as has been the policy for the past decade, compromises safety and increases fatalities.  However, these claims are contradicted by some of the government’s own data, by nonpartisan groups like Securing America’s Future Energy, industry groups like the Aluminum Association Transportation Group (which, please note, DOES have a vested interest in the subject) and even by officials presently serving in the government themselves. Many automakers oppose the idea as inefficient for them and expensive for consumers

Now, we hear arguments on either side of the climate change debate.  One can choose to accept that pollution causes climate change or not (and the comprehensive scientific conclusion is that it DOES).  As some skeptics like to say, “I am not a scientist”, therefore I cannot speak with any special authority about climate data.  But I am a pediatrician for 34 years, so I believe I am well qualified to address the pediatric medical literature. The above is only some of the information in my field telling us that pollution is bad for the wellbeing of the next generation, whatever you accept or reject about its effect on climate.  I say we ignore this at our children’s and grandchildren’s peril.

Please keep the above in mind as the debate–and political/election contests that are impacted by it–come before you this year, next year, and beyond.

Happy Easter and Passover to all and thanks for following.

Consumer warning–Fisher-Price Rock n Play

I just want to place a quick note up for all about an important alert.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a warning about the Fisher Price Rock n Play infant seat/sleeper.  This warning has been published in numerous media outlets and I just wanted to place one more notice myself to do everything I can to alert parents to the risk presented here.

This product is used as  seat/rest for younger infants, but, since 2015, there have been 10 reported DEATHS in infants who rolled over in the seat, became entangled, and suffocated. All of the babies were > 3 months old.  With a look at the design of this product we can see where the danger resides (see above).

Recommendations from the manufacturer–Fisher Price–suggest that parents stop using this device by 3 months of age or when your baby begins to show ability to roll over.  My recommendation, with apologies to our friends at Fisher Price, is to forget the whole thing and find a different product.  Who wants to be guessing at this?

When using infant seats generally, be sure to always supervise your infant in these devises.  Best to keep them on lower surfaces–middle of your bed, or better yet, the floor.  Hard to get lower than the floor, right? Keeping your infant in an infant seat on your kitchen counter, say, assumes that she will not be able to roll/pitch herself over or forward and fall out, potentially all the way to ground.  Are you that sure that that cannot happen? All of us believe that our babies are the most beautiful and the smartest–and all of us are right!! Then let’s assume that this smart little person that makes you so (justifiably) proud is going to be able to figure that out faster than you imagined.  SAFETY FIRST!!

Send along questions and comments, and thanks for following