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Parents say bad air should keep students in

(Standard-Examiner) OGDEN - If you can see your air, should you be breathing it?

That's the question Kaysville mother Alicia Ridgeway Connell asked Friday when talking about whether or not she felt it was safe for kids to play outside during recess.

Even though the air quality index was in the yellow zone in Weber County and the orange zone in Davis County Friday morning, several schools in Weber and Davis Counties were allowing their students to participate in outdoor recess activities. By 1 p.m. the index had moved into the red zone in Davis County and remained in the yellow zone in Weber.

A yellow air day means conditions are moderate and highly sensitive people should limit their outdoor activity. An orange air day means people with sensitive health concerns such as asthma and heart and lung disease should limit their outdoor activities. A red air day means people with lung disease such as asthma, and people who are active outdoors should reduce prolonged outdoor activity. Purple represents very unhealthy air and the maroon classification indicates a hazardous situation warranting an emergency alert.

Connell, who is also the co-founder of the Ogden-Weber chapter of Utah Moms for Clean Air, said when it's anything but a green air day, people should stay inside, especially children who breathe in more air than adults.

"We are working on the discrepancy between the EPA and the State of Utah recess guidelines. Orange days are considered unsafe for sensitive groups. Kids are considered a sensitive group, yet they wait until purple days to keep kids in from recess," she said. "The air is not clean regardless of whether they say it's a yellow day. You shouldn't be able to see, smell or taste the air you breathe. I don't think they're testing everything that's going into our air enough and until they are we're not going to know what's in our air and how to fix it."

Connell said her children attend both private and charter schools in Davis County. She said she has requested her child stay inside from recess at her private school, but has been told there's not enough manpower to honor the request.

Taya Fisher said her children attend Davis County Schools and have been outside for recess on several red air days.

"Yesterday I wrote notes to my kids' teachers asking that my kids be allowed to stay inside on red air days. Both teachers are allowing it but I really think none of the kids should be allowed outside on days like today," she said. "I have been planning to gather info for the principal and meet with her soon to see if this rule can possibly be changed.

My daughter feels embarrassed that she has to stay inside now and I really don't think she should have to feel like the odd man out because the school isn't being healthy," Fisher said.

West Haven resident, Jodi Fusselman said she is also concerned about her children going outside for recess.

"My sister and I don't think they should," she said. "Our kids' school is making them go out and their little lungs are on fire."

Cathy Ottley said she agrees that kids should stay inside until the inversion clears.

"I have always been an asthmatic, even as a child and the inversion has always taxed my heart and lungs so my answer is no. No going outside," she said.

Mountain Ridge Elementary School principal Don Beatty, said his school, located in Layton, follows state recess guidelines. He said those guidelines state that when the numbers climb to 90 and above, children should remain indoors.

"We have the air quality index web page up all day and watch it continuously," he said. "It can change drastically in an hour. It's kind of hard because the index lumps Davis and Salt Lake together and things are much worse in Salt Lake, so it's not a real good indicator for us. We watch both Weber and Davis and kind of go by what's in the middle."

Riverdale Elementary School principal, Tommy Lee said Weber Schools follow a guideline from the school district that is issued on a daily basis.

"Right now it shows that it's a moderate air day in Weber County but it's constantly changing, so if it starts to get worse then we will take the appropriate steps to keep our kids inside," he said. "We do have some kids with sensitive health concerns and if the air quality starts to worsen then we will keep them inside. Sometimes a parent will also call and ask us to keep their child indoors during recess."

West Weber Elementary School principal Michael Geilmann said when the air quality index reaches 35 or higher, students with sensitive health concerns are kept inside. Recess is avoided if the index reaches 55 or higher.

Dr. John Allred, a pediatrician at Ogden Clinic, said when the environment is in the yellow zone, he doesn't see a problem with children going outside to play. However, anything higher than yellow, and Allred discourages exposure to pollution that can lead to new sickness or reactive chronic illness.

"Generally, I still encourage activity and play inside, particularly if there is some sort of air filtration available in that school or gymnasium," Allred said. "Because today's air quality is yellow, I wouldn't suggest teachers limit all their children from recess. However, children who are unusually sensitive to ozone and pollutants may experience respiratory symptoms. When the AQI rises to the orange range, the general public is not likely to be affected, but older adults and children are at greater risk from exposure to ozone and children with ear and lung disease are at greater risk from particulate pollution in the air."

Connell said if parents are concerned, they should call their schools and take a stand. "So many people sit back and say, 'I'm only one person,' but I'm only one person and I took a stand six months ago and now I'm the co-founder of a group of over 1,400," she said. "Stand up and do something. These are our children and when you're a mom, protecting your child is one of the most important things you can do."

http://www.standard.net/stories/2014/01/03/parent-should-utahs-bad-air-keep-children-inside-recess