No study on air pollution’s impact on cognitive decline: Yadav in RS
The State of Global Air 2020 report said India has the highest burden of infant deaths due to air pollution, HT reported on October 21, 2020
New Delhi: There has been no specific study on whether high air pollution damages brain and motor functions among children, environment minister Bhupender Yadav informed the Rajya Sabha during the just concluded budget session.
“There are several studies conducted by different organizations on the impact of air pollution, which is one of the many factors affecting respiratory ailments and associated diseases,” Yadav said on February 8. “There is no specific study conducted in regard to the impact of air pollution on cognitive and motor impairment of children.”
Yadav was answering a question by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Vijaypal Singh Tomar on whether children were more vulnerable to air pollution as exposure to highly polluted air damages brain development and leads to cognitive and motor impairments. Tomar asked the government to provide details of the precautionary measures taken since thousands of children die prematurely every year because of polluted air.
Indian cities particularly those in the Indo-Gangetic Plains record high air pollution, several times higher than World Health Organisation’s air quality guideline and higher than India’s national safe standard. An average Indian citizen is losing around 5.3 years of life expectancy according to annual Air Quality Life Index report of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago released last year. Delhi recorded average air quality index of 204 in 2023 compared to 209 in 2022 both in “poor” category as per Central Pollution Control Board.
The State of Global Air 2020 report said India has the highest burden of infant deaths due to air pollution, HT reported on October 21, 2020.
There are global studies that indicate the noxious air impacts pregnant women and may impair the early neurological development of children.
A paper published in Springer Nature’s Journal of Environmental Health in January last year found that higher exposure to air pollutants during pregnancy was inversely associated with motor, cognitive and language scores of two-year-old children. “These results indicate that prenatal ambient air pollution may negatively impact neurodevelopment in early life,” found the study led by the department of integrative physiology at the Colorado University in Boulder.
There is evidence that both prenatal and postnatal exposure to air pollution can harm kids, according to another study led by the department of environmental and occupational health sciences at the Washington University. The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that children whose mothers experienced higher nitrogen dioxide and particulate pollution exposure during pregnancy were more likely to have behavioural problems. Higher exposures to PM 2.5 pollution when children were 2 to 4 years old was associated with poorer child behavioural functioning and cognitive performance.
The government has taken several steps to address the issue of adverse health impacts due to air pollution, Yadav said. It has launched a National Clean Air Programme in January 2019 that covers 131 cities in 24 states and union territories through which funds are provided to implement city action plans to improve of air quality, he said.
“Thirty four states have developed State Action Plan on Climate Change and Human Health. A National Action Plan on Climate Change and Human Health has been developed, which outlines the key priority and actionable areas at various levels in the health sector with identification of other key stakeholders for implementing the activities,” the minister said.
The clean air programme aims at 40% reduction in air pollution or achieve national ambient air quality standards, he said. The Union health ministry has a National Programme on Climate Change and Human Health to strengthen the capacity of the health care system to reduce illnesses and diseases due to variability in the climate, Yadav added.
The government also released at Comprehensive Health Adaptation Plan for Diseases due to Air Pollution on August 30, 2021, to address health problems due to exposure to polluted air, he said. the country. It is also working to raise community awareness and has developed training manuals for vulnerable population, including children, he said.
“Air pollution affects children’s health in many ways. There is global as well local Indian evidence indicating association between air pollution and newborn health impacts such as premature birth or low birthweight. Studies have also shown that children in areas with high air pollution can have higher risk of respiratory infections, and poor lung health. Newer studies have also linked air pollution exposures to cognitive development in children,” said Pallavi Pant, Head of Global Health at US based Health Effects Institute.
“This is important to address since the effects such as reduced lung growth not only impact the childhood period but can have impacts throughout adult life. In recent years, there have a number of studies in India looking at air pollution and health during childhood, including studies using NFHS data,” she added.
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