Should I let my kids outside? and other Colorado air pollution questions |

Should I let my kids outside? and other Colorado air pollution questions

Michael Booth
The Colorado Sun
First-graders are seen on their second day of school on Thursday, August 12, 2021, at Second Creek Elementary School in Commerce City.
Photo by Olivia Sun / The Colorado Sun

DENVER — Many of the scorching days this summer have come with an air pollution “action alert” from the state government, warning people with sensitive respiratory issues to take extra caution in the presence of elevated ozone or PM2.5 particulate matter drifting in on wildfire smoke.

What does that mean, exactly, if you’re taking care of kids, or anyone with serious lung or heart problems? We sought the expertise of National Jewish Health, a premier respiratory research and treatment institution, to sort out some of the answers to your air pollution questions.

Question: We seem to be alternating high ozone days and high PM2.5 days this summer, are they equally harmful to children?

Answer: High levels of either one can trigger asthma or other respiratory problems and inflammation in anyone using the outdoors, especially those who are already vulnerable through a preexisting condition. Denver-area health officials do notice spikes in appointments and in the number of children using albuterol inhalers after a recorded day of high pollution.

PM2.5, which has jumped in Colorado this summer because of wildfire smoke drifting in from California and the Tahoe region, appears to exacerbate asthma in epidemiological studies, Rabinovitch said. PM2.5 refers to the size of the particles — 2.5 microns, too small to be seen by the human eye.

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