Pollution is killing the young lungs: Doctors

HT Image
HT Image
Published on Oct 31, 2019 11:25 PM IST
Copy Link

New Delhi: It is the young lungs, especially under five years of age, that suffer the maximum damage when air pollution levels peak, say doctors.

For children, the risk really begins very early — right from the womb and continues through till early childhood.

“Long-term, recurrent exposure to pollution is linked to underdeveloped lungs in children, low birth weight, heart diseases, stroke, and now, studies show associations of pollution with reduced cognitive abilities as well,” Dr BK Tripathi, professor of medicine, Safdarjung hospital, said.

A report on child health and air pollution, released by the World Health Organisation last year, said, “Air pollution has a devastating impact on children’s health.” Globally, 93% of all children live in environments with air pollution levels above the WHO guidelines.

Short-term impact

The exposure to air pollution leads to immediate breathing difficulties, respiratory symptoms, and irritation of the eye.

“Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable — whatever symptoms people are experiencing, they are more pronounced in them. In my clinic, people who already have existing conditions such as asthma and COPD are coming with exacerbated symptoms,” Dr Sandeep Nayyar, head of the department of respiratory medicine, allergy and sleep disorders, BL Kapur Super Speciality Hospital, said.

“There may not be enough research to establish a direct link, but when pollution is at its peak, children who already have minor breathing issues get aggravated symptoms that don’t allow them proper sleep at night. Such children will be dull and cranky the next day. Lack of sleep over a period of time can lead to altered moods and memory issues,” Dr Manvir Bhatia, sleep medicine expert, said.

Doctors usually advise parents to ensure that their child stays indoors when pollution levels are high but mental health experts say it can also affect the psyche of a child.

“Parents should ensure that the child remains occupied with fun indoor activities to prevent them from having mood issues and becoming irritable,” Dr Rajesh Sagar, professor, psychiatry department, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, said.

The WHO report stated that children are uniquely vulnerable to air pollution — they breathe faster than adults inhaling more pollutants, they live closer to the ground where pollution levels are concentrated, and they spend more time outdoors.

Long-term impacts

Repeated exposure can lead to children developing asthma and other allergic respiratory symptoms later in life.

“There are studies that show that in children, exposure to high pollution levels can lead to them developing chronic respiratory conditions,” Dr Arup Basu, senior consultant, department of chest medicine at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said.

“The allergic symptoms irritate the mucous membrane lining the airway and damage it. Recurrence of the symptoms leads to scarring and irreversible damage of the lining and results in the narrowing of the airway, putting children at risk of developing chronic respiratory conditions,” Dr Tripathi said.

The traffic-related air pollution study published in Lancet Planetary Health journal shows that with 350,000 new asthma cases related to exposure to NO2, India has the second-highest burden of childhood asthma cases attributable to pollution.

Exposure of an expectant mother to high levels of air pollution during the last trimester is linked to the stunting of growth of the child, found a study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

An increase of 100 μ g/m3 in the ambient PM2.5 level during the birth month were associated with a decrease of 0.05 in the height-for-age of the child. This means that a five-year-old girl would be 0.24 cm shorter than average.

The highest decline was noted in children born between November and January, when the pollution in the country is at the peak.

Another research from China shows that long-term, as well as transient exposure to air pollution, can lead to children scoring lower in verbal and maths tests, suggesting a decline in cognitive functions.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • HC allows Jalandhar man to go abroad; says pendency of an FIR no ground to deny him permission

    HC allows Jalandhar man to go abroad; says pendency of an FIR no ground to deny him permission

    The Punjab and Haryana high court has allowed a Jalandhar man, an accused in a criminal case, to go abroad, observing that pendency of an FIR would not mean that The petitioner, Kanwalpreet Singh Kalra would not return back. The petitioner, Kanwalpreet Singh Kalra, had approached the high court after he was denied permission to fly to Canada to attend the convocation ceremony of his daughter by a Jalandhar court.

  • Finance minister Harpal Singh Cheema presented AAP government’s white paper two days before his first budget presentation. (HT Photo)

    Congress regime spent recklessly, left behind 24,351 crore unpaid liability: Mann govt’s white paper

    Two days ahead of its first budget, the Aam Aadmi Party government in Punjab, while painting a grim picture of the state finances, on Saturday tore into the previous Congress government for “reckless spending” and saddling it with “unpaid liability” of 24,351 crore besides a colossal debt. Another 7,117.86 crore is unpaid power subsidy claimed by Punjab State Power Corporation Limited for supply to agriculture, domestic and industry consumers last year.

  • 2 cops booked for helping gangster Duneke obtain passport on forged documents

    2 cops booked for helping gangster Duneke obtain passport on forged documents

    Moga Amid investigation by the anti-Gangster task force into the gangsters operating from abroad, the district police on Saturday booked two cops for allegedly helping gangster Sukhdul Singh alias Sukha Duneke to obtain a passport by tampering police verification process using forged documents. The case was registered against assistant sub-inspector Prabhdyal Singh and head constable Gurwinder Singh, who were found guilty of helping Duneke.

  • EcoSikh to plant 450 mini forests in Amritsar

    EcoSikh to plant 450 mini forests in Amritsar

    To tackle environmental degradation in Amritsar, US-based environmental organisation EcoSikh will plant 450 Guru Nanak Sacred forests comprising 550 trees each in the next five years in the city. The charitable organisation fighting climate crisis will launch the five-year campaign on Monday, the 445th foundation day of its Amritsar chapter. The campaign- Eco Amritsar 450- will culminate on the 450th anniversary of its founding in 2027.

  • Love story gone wrong: Missing MP woman arrested trying to cross border to marry Pakistani man

    Love story gone wrong: Missing MP woman arrested trying to cross border to marry Pakistani man

    A 23-year-old woman from Madhya Pradesh, who had been missing for over 10 days, was arrested when Fiza tried to cross over to Pakistan via the Attari-Wagah border to meet a man in the neighbouring country she claimed to be in love with and wanted to marry, police said on Saturday.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, June 26, 2022