Friday, November 23, 2007

Teach Your Children

As the mother of a 13 year-old daughter, I am painfully aware of the pressures that our youngest generation faces. At the risk of sounding annoyingly like my mother, things were so very different when I was a girl. For starters, when I was my daughter's age, my friends and I walked everywhere. The daily ritual of our 20-minute walk to school (and back) kept us reasonably fit. It also provided us with some critical bonding time. We talked about our adolescent crushes, unfinished homework, plans for the future, fights with our parents. Getting a ride to school was a rare treat that was reserved for days when the weather was just too severe to walk, or a project was just too big to carry. In the evening, we'd often walk for hours, visiting the local park or stopping at the local plaza for a snack before we walked home.

By contrast, the majority of kids today are either bused or chauffeured to school, sports and extra curricular activities every day. Kids who want to walk or ride their bikes are discouraged for safety reasons. The result is that the traffic jams inschool parking lots rival serious backups on our highways during rush hour.

Traffic jams in the school parking lot aren't the only problem that this creates for the chauffeured generation. Our kids are the fattest and most physically unfit generation in history. The time that my generation spent walking and talking with friends is now spent on MSN, Facebook, text messaging or watching television. Even when kids are together, chances are they’re not talking to each other. The prevalence of cell phones means that they're talking (usually rather loudly) to someone else.

If you ask most parents why they chauffeur their kids around and pay for expensive cell phones, chances are they will say it's because they want their kids to be safe. They'll cite rising crime rates, gun violence, sexual assault and abductions as a primary motivators. In reality, crime rates have dropped dramatically over the last ten years. According to Statistics Canada, from 1996 to 2006, sexual assaults dropped 26 percent, abductions dropped by 50 percent and other sexual offences dropped by 24 percent. Homicide dropped by 14 percent and attempted murder dropped by 12 percent.

Here's the Catch 22. Despite the decline in crime rates, our children still are at greater risk - not from guns and sexual assault, but from urban air pollution, caused by the very vehicles we try to cocoon them in.

Dr. David McKeown, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, released a report earlier this month that links serious illness and premature death to traffic related air pollution. In 2004, Toronto Public Health conducted a study that linked overall air pollution to 1,700 premature deaths each year. This new report, Air Pollution Burden of Illness from Traffic in Toronto, shows that 440 of these deaths are associated with air pollution generated specifically from vehicle traffic.

"For the first time in Ontario, we have isolated the health impacts of vehicle emissions, and can demonstrate the potential health benefits of moving to a more sustainable transportation system," said Dr. McKeown. "A 30 per cent reduction in motor vehicle emissions in Toronto could save nearly 200 lives a year and significantly reduce hospitalization and illness, and associated economic impacts."

Young lungs are extremely vulnerable to air pollution and smog caused by vehicle exhaust. A report released last year by the Commission for Environmental Co-operation states that the incidence of asthma among children in North America is four times higher than it was 20 years ago.

To make matters worse, because our kids are being chauffeured everywhere, they are literally becoming fat and lazy. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, childhood obesity rates in Canada have tripled over the last 20 years.

In trying to keep our kids safe and secure, it would appear that we are literally killing them with kindness.


The Toronto Board of Health report, including a technical summary, is posted at

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation is an international organization created by Canada, Mexico and the United States to address regional environmental concerns, help prevent potential trade and environmental conflicts, and to promote the effective enforcement of environmental law.

The Canadian Centre for Health Information


Blogger BHUVAN CHAND JUYAL said...

Today global warming news is very danger news for earth life. Now this global warming issues takes big picture for this world. Now we are aware about this issue.

December 14, 2007 7:42 AM  

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