Let’s curb pollution, a silent killer, for our children’s sake

As per the State of Global Air 2018 report, the country lost 11 lakh people due to air pollution. But, we have still not understood the severity of the issue.
A child at the protest against growing air pollution in Gurugram, at Leisure Valley Park, Sector 29, in Gurugram, on Sunday, November 17, 2019.(Yogendra Kumar/HT PHOTO)
A child at the protest against growing air pollution in Gurugram, at Leisure Valley Park, Sector 29, in Gurugram, on Sunday, November 17, 2019.(Yogendra Kumar/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Nov 20, 2019 08:09 AM IST
Copy Link

Last Sunday, over 3,000 people turned up in the morning to protest against the growing air pollution in Gurugram. Protests are part of our society, so it was not surprising to see people turning up in the Leisure Valley Park. But, what was surprising was the cause. Air pollution is still not a mainstream conversation in India, and therefore, expecting people to come on the streets for protest is a little unexpected. It was even more surprising that a large number of children came out demanding cleaner air.

This year, students across Delhi-NCR were forced to celebrate the Children’s Day at home. Schools were closed due to hazardous air quality. This is undoubtedly not the way that children would like to celebrate November 14. It comes in after a couple of pollution-related breaks that the schools got due to hazardous air quality.

Air pollution is a silent killer in India, and as per the State of Global Air 2018 report, the country lost 11 lakh people due to it. But, we have still not understood the severity of the issue. Children are the worst affected due to air pollution. Therefore, it was hearting as well as sad to see children demanding cleaner air because it is they who are the worst impacted due to toxic air. How? Let me explain a little more.

Impacts the birth

The impact of air pollution on children starts even before they are born. A research from Ohio, USA looking at the effects of PM2.5 exposure and childbirth found shocking results. Fine particulate matters, especially those that are less than 2.5 micrometres, also called PM2.5, pose a severe health threat. These particulate matters travel deep into the respiratory tract and deposit in the lungs causing all kinds of health issues from allergy to deadly cancer. The Ohio study found that for every 10 µg/m³ increase in pm 2.5 levels, there was a 19% increase in the chances of babies with congenital disabilities. What is also important to note is the fact that the US Environmental Protection Agency standard for particulate matter levels was 15 µg/m³. Our cities usually have PM2.5 levels in three digits. Therefore, it is not rocket science to understand the impact of such toxic air on childbirth in our country.

Reduces growth & development

A Southern California Children’s Health Study looking at 10-year data found that kids who grew up in more polluted areas had reduced lung capacity. To make the matter worse, the lungs of these children may never recover to the full size, thus impacting them lifelong. The impact is similar to children who grew up in homes where their parents smoked. Therefore, air pollution is forced smoking for children. We also need to remember that children’s lungs take time to develop. In fact, at birth, most children only have 20% of an adult’s lung mass. They get full lung only when they reach their teens. The lower lung capacity makes children breathe much quickly. It means they will inhale far more air pollutants than any of the adult. Children’s immune system is also not that strong, as compared to adults. Therefore, a significant amount of contaminants plus a lower immune system means children will be more likely to develop respiratory issues related to air pollution. Thus, air pollution impacts the growth and development of children.

Decreases life expectancy

The WHO report — Air Pollution and Child Health: Prescribing Clean Air — revealed that the world over around six lakh children died due to air pollution. The problem is much more acute in developing countries like India as compared to the west as approximately 98% of the children breathe air that has higher levels of PM2.5 than that prescribed by the WHO. The Global Burden of Disease report of 2017 found that India loses one child every three minutes due to polluted air. The data from 1990-2017 linked air pollution as the primary reason for lower respiratory tract infection (LRI). The LRI was the second primary reason for child mortality, after neonatal disorder. In the last three decades, more than a crore of children could not live to see their 60th birthday due to LRI.

Studies from around the world have shown the reducing air pollution has a positive impact on children. The Southern California study found that reducing pollution improves children’s health. In Switzerland, particle pollution dropped in the 1990s due to a series of steps taken by the government. Researchers found that during the years with less pollution, the children had fewer episodes of air quality-related diseases like chronic cough, bronchitis, common cold, etc. Therefore, cleaning air does improve children’s health and well being.

Air pollution has far-ranging impact, be it health, productivity, quality of life, city image, etc. If these are not compelling arguments for action, then we should act for the sake of our children. Else, we will take away their fundamental right – the right to breathe.

@amitbhatt4u

(Amit Bhatt is the director- integrated transport, WRI India)

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Independent MLA Rana Inder Partap Singh said that he met Gadkari recently on the issue of inadequate compensation for land acquired of Punjabis for the Jammu-Katra Expressway and other highway projects. (HT File)

    Independent MLA Rana Inder Partap Singh meets Union minister Nitin Gadkari on land acquisition compensation

    Independent MLA Rana Inder Partap Singh on Monday claimed that Union minister for surface transport Nitin Gadkari has assured to appoint an arbitrator to sort out the issue of inadequate compensation for land acquired for various highway projects in Punjab. MLA from Sultanpur Lodhi, Rana Inder, said that he met Gadkari recently on the issue of inadequate compensation for land acquired of Punjabis for the Jammu-Katra Expressway and other highway projects.

  • Spangle Condos residents complained about the society’s RWA not taking any action over the impotable water supply. (HT File)

    Spangle Condos residents decry RWA’s inaction over impotable water supply

    Despite the drinking water samples from Spangle Condos, a residential society in Dhakoli, Zirakpur failing a quality test earlier this month, residents said the residents' welfare association responsible for the maintenance of the society has failed to take any action. Residents had on May 1 filed an application with the health department for testing of samples after receiving unclean water, following which the senior medical officer (SMO) collected the same on May 2.

  • The raid being conducted by the state GST department at the shop in Kochar Market on Monday. (HT Photo)

    GST dept raids shop in Ludhiana’s Kochar Market

    A team of the state goods and services tax department conducted a raid at a CCTV cameras shop in Kochar market on Monday. The officials stated that the raids were conducted over a suspicion that the owner is suppressing sales to evade tax. Dist logs 2 new Covid cases Two fresh Covid cases were reported from Ludhiana in the last 24 hours, as per the bulletin released by district health department on Monday.

  • The CIA team had caught the duo roaming around the Ferozepur central jail premises on a motorcycle. On frisking, the contraband was found in their possession. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

    Two arrested for trying to throw drugs into Ferozepur central jail

    Two persons were caught trying to toss in drugs into the Ferozepur central jail on Sunday night. Sub-inspector Jajpal Singh of the CIA staff said his team was standing guard near the jail's boundary following a tip-off about a possible attempt to sneak in drugs into the prison. On frisking, the team found 100gm heroin, 40 pouches of tobacco, five packets of biri, besides a 7.6mm pistol and two cartridges in the duo's possession.

  • CIDCO MD assures to resolve water woes in Kharghar, Taloja by May 31. Due to water shortage, residents end up spending on water tankers. (for representational purposes) (HT FILE PHOTO)

    CIDCO MD assures to resolve water woes in Kharghar, Taloja by May 31

    Following regular complaints of water scarcity in Kharghar and Taloja areas, CIDCO Sanjay Mukherjee has assured, through his tweets, that the scarcity would be resolved by May 31. This is the deadline for the work of pressure conduit at Hetwane Dam to provide 30MLD of water that also is the current deficit attributed by CIDCO. Mukherjee chose to address the issue of water scarcity in Kharghar-Taloja belt on Sunday through his 20-odd tweets.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Tuesday, May 17, 2022