The Kids Are Alright

Isha Khanna and Christina Bachiller represented the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency at the Environmental Leaders Summit hosted by the YMCA Earth Service Corps. There were four sessions, each lasting 25 minutes where they facilitated discussions around the topic “The Air Up There” with students from around Washington. The groups consisted of approximately 5-8 people, mostly high school students.

The basis of the topic “The Air Up There” was the fact that we all need clean air to lead healthy lives, and air pollution threatens us all. However, low-income areas and marginalized communities are overwhelmingly more affected by air pollution due to pollution sources being placed near those communities, socio-economic factors, and compounded health issues. So how can we make a difference?

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The conversations with the group started by Christina briefly explaining what the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency does, and then asking what the group thought was the main source of air pollution. This led to a discussion about where those sources were usually located and why. Each group had a different take and the conversations were varied in the four sessions. Most were surprised to know that automobiles produce more pollution than stationary sources, however as the discussions progressed, they were able to understand why low-income and marginalized communities suffer from poorer air quality due to major highways and roadways being prevalent in those areas in addition to stationary sources and other factors.

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Isha explained the science behind air pollution and why the weather makes a difference in air quality. She showed students what air filters look like with exposure to different air quality conditions, progressing from clean air filters on a “Green” day to dirty air filters on an “Orange” day. Christina advised the student groups on how to make their own air filter using a box fan and a filter that can be bought at any home improvement store. Isha also informed each group about the Agency’s program of lending out hand-held monitors to see what the air quality is like near the places the students live.

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Overall, the day was a success, and the summit provided a good opportunity both for the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to be showcased to the young people in and around our community, and for students to envision a potential career path around air quality.

By Christina Bachiller, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency Customer Service Specialist