As if reading, writing, and arithmetic weren’t enough, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists asthma, disease, and flooding as childhood concerns for the classroom.
The culprit behind the new additions is our overheating planet, according to the EPA.
“Children are experiencing the impacts of climate change from negative health outcomes impacting their physical and mental health,” Children’s Environmental Health Network Executive Director Nsedu Obot Witherspoon said in an EPA press release.
What’s going on?
For context, the planet’s temperature has jumped an average of 0.14 degrees Fahrenheit every 10 years since 1880. That’s about 2 degrees total. Since 1981, the rate of warming is more than twice as fast (0.32 degrees) per decade, all according to Climate.gov.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health writes on its website that children will experience about three times as many weather disasters as their grandparents.
Why is this important?
The EPA report offers a page-by-page list of concerns, from allergies to air quality. Each one has a statistic that will leave most parents cringing. The agency predicts that more than a million children could face temporary home displacement or complete home loss because of flooding, if climate change is sustained without taking measures to adapt.
Warmer temperatures also create a longer season for mosquitoes and ticks, critters that carry infectious diseases. The EPA forecasts that Lyme disease cases among children in the eastern part of the U.S will increase 31% in a world warmed by about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
The list of climate-related concerns goes on, and each one contributes to poorer classroom performance or child health.
The EPA report also says that more common hot weather may reduce academic performance by up to 7% each year. As a result, mental and physical health and even future income potential are impacted, experts said.
“The new report is painful to read. But necessary,” Elizabeth Bechard, senior policy analyst with Moms Clean Air Force, told the EPA. “It offers an important roadmap for policymakers, parents, teachers, health care providers, and childcare workers by highlighting both the challenges we face and potential solutions.”
What can be done?
With each heat horror the EPA cites, the experts also provide some ways to mitigate the risks. The organization implores caregivers to talk to kids about the symptoms of overheating and what it means for their bodies and the planet.
Monitoring air-quality reports and limiting outside play on days of intense smog or wildfire smoke cover is a good idea. Talk with pediatricians about your child’s allergies and ways to reduce the symptoms.
Simply planting more trees can have a multibillion-dollar impact, clean our air, and provide for better mental health. One of the most effective things we can do is to lessen our reliance on dirty energy sources, like coal, gas, and oil — which contribute greatly to the overheating of our planet — by relying more heavily on abundant, cheap clean energy, like solar and wind power.
“For all who care about children’s well-being, EPA’s new report is a call to action — a call we must answer for our children’s sake,” Bechard said.
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