The Capital is home to the highest proportion of children with weak lungs in the country with over 40% students between eight and 14 affected by Delhi’s dirty air, a recent survey of over 2,000 youngsters across four cities revealed on Monday.
The study said 21% of the city’s children reported poor lung capacity and another 19% fared as “bad” as over one in three kids across the nation showed weak lungs.
Delhi was followed by Bengaluru at 36% (14% poor and 22% bad), 35% in Kolkata (9% poor and 26% bad) and 27% in Mumbai (13% poor and 14% bad), according to the Breathe Blue ’15 survey in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata by the Heal Foundation.
The Capital hit the headlines last year after a slew of news reports identified it as the most polluted city in the world. Since then, a string of rulings by courts and the country’s green regulator have tried to clean up the city’s noxious air but in the absence of effective implementation, factories and vehicles continue to belch out filthy fumes, choking its 18 million residents.
The worst-affected children were those commuting in unpacked vehicles as they were exposed to much more dust and pollutants in comparison to kids travelling in packed vehicles — such as buses filled with passengers.
In Delhi alone, about 92% of children using UPT (unpacked transport) had “poor” lung quality as opposed to just 8% of those who use PT (packed transport).
Similar trends were noticed in Mumbai (UPT: 79%, PT: 21%), Bengaluru (UPT: 86%, PT: 14%) and Kolkata (UPT: 65%, PT: 35%). Students from 14 schools —four in Delhi, three in Kolkata, three in Bengaluru and four in Mumbai — were surveyed between March 31 and April 30.
“Not just air pollution, indoor air pollution is also a major concern, which 70 to 80% people don’t know about. A study done by our institute about six years ago showed even indoor air pollution is responsible for the poor lung conditions in children,” said Prof Raj Kumar at Delhi’s Sarder Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute.
Alarmingly, most of the children with undiagnosed lung problems in all four cities thought they possessed healthy lungs as they didn’t smoke or had any breathing difficulties.