Over the past three weeks our air quality patterns have become a health concern. We are in the process of developing a conscientious practice to address environmental concerns.
There are a variety of ways to measure air quality, from particulate count to specific pollutant content. There are also a number of resources available for us to use as a reference. At this point we are using the “Air Matters” app. This provides us with an overall air quality index (AQI) score. The score is updated every hour. It measures large particulate, micro-particulate and a variety of pollutants in our air. It also provides a “cumulative” AQI score for a given area. According to this app Dakar’s daily cumulative air quality average has exceeded 200, more than twenty out of the past month. A cumulative score of 200 or above is considered unhealthy. Over the course of the same time, the daily average AQI has exceeded 300 at least ten times. This is considered hazardous. Looking at the data, there are a couple of other factors to consider. The level of toxic pollutants (SO2, O3, NO2, and CO). These remain well within the AQI acceptable range. This means that our air is basically full of small and large dust particles. We are also not quite sure where the measurements are taking place. Our position next to the ocean, on the peninsula will diminish the particulate if it is being measured inland or in downtown Dakar.
In order to act in the best interest of our children we need to remain vigilant and make thoughtful choices regarding their health. At this point, due to the lower level of toxic pollutants, we are looking at an AQI micro-particulate score of 250 or above as a benchmark for keeping children inside during recess and lunch. An AQI micro-particulate score of 200 or above should result in children with diagnosed respiratory conditions reducing high level activity. These numbers and subsequent actions are the result of balancing the effects of limited exposure, (in this case 15 and 45 minutes) with the consequences of sedentary activity or non-activity throughout the day.
We realize this may disrupt our daily routines and limit our activity options. During “dust season” we will make a call each day at 10:05 and 12:05 with regards to whether or not we will have recess and /or indoor lunch.
We realize this is not convenient, but the high AQI index does seem seasonal. Thus our situation is not permanent. Thank you for your patience as we develop a set practice for dealing with our external environmental factors. Your child’s respiratory health is important to us!