Delhi air pollution: Children at most risk, say experts
Alarming increase in air pollution attacks the respiratory system, and can alter the immune system.
New Delhi: Diwali is no more a festival to allay darkness; rather it has turned into a festival for thickening darkness.
With one more bout of fire crackers, the killer pollution, engulfing life in its vice like grip, would only become more lethal.
It can be well understood that kids are in the forefront of bearing its brunt because pollution perked up is disrobing them of the shield of immunity, leaving them as sitting ducks for virus, bacteria and other disease agents prowling in the environment. Their immunity is imperiled, so are their lives.
"Alarming increase in air pollution attacks the respiratory system, and can alter the immune system. Moreover higher level of carbon monoxide directly hits the cardiovascular system, particularly among children. Immune health can help in tackling all these problems", says Dr. Avneet Kaur, Sr. Consultant Neonatology Dept, Apollo Cradle Hospital.
"There are several reasons for kids to be easy victims of the pollution and thereby a lower immune health. Their lungs are growing and they have higher cell division, so pollutants find much more space in them. Compared to adults, they have low immunities and therefore more susceptible to diseases", said Dr. Vivek Jain, Additional Director and head of department Neonatology- Fortis Hospital- Shalimar Bagh.
According to a Report by Save the Children, every fourth child, living in urban India, fall sick every month on average, reason being lower immunity. What affects their immunity?
Essentially, ground water and air pollution damage immune system of children. Doctors associate high levels of suspended particulate matter and sulphur dioxide with increased mortality, morbidity and impaired pulmonary function.
According to a study conducted by National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) on Nutrition and health status of school children in urban area, one out every three Indian kids miss school due to infections.
Several studies revealed the presence of harmful chemicals and heavy metals in groundwater resources. If this groundwater is consumed, according to the study, it can lead to serious health problems in the nervous system, kidneys and the digestive tract and affect the overall immune system.
"As per International Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, our daily intakes of vegetables contain 21 times higher metal content. So apart from air and ground water pollution, our eating pattern also impact immunity. Having exposed to such conditions, a kid is prone to catch respiratory, liver and kidney problems," added Dr. Jain.
According to studies conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), one in five adults and one in four children in the national capital suffered from upper respiratory diseases, and that these numbers were on an upward trend. Other metro and big cities with industrial clusters are facing the similar challenge.
Kid's health has become a major concern for all.
Experts state that kids should be given the recommended dose of key nutrients Vitamin A C Iron, as it has been found through studies that 80 percent of urban kids do not receive the recommended key nutrients.
It should be noted that mothers think that adequate intake of milk can enhance immune health of kids. However, FSSAI has concluded that 65-90 percent of the milk could be adulterated.
Studies reveal that more than 75 percent of urban Indian school children suffer from anemia. On the same note, India has the highest population of kids deficient in Vitamin A globally.
Water pollution is equally damaging. According to Dr. Kaur, "Polluted drinking water is also causing havoc on kids. Because of this they suffer from diseases like diarrhea, gastro problems, typhoid, sore throat and a general fall in immunity. Presences of higher level of heavy metals even in vegetables are hazardous to health. Children are the main victims."
"Parents and schools can play critical role to save kids from immune related health problems. Proper monitoring of immune health can be done at school level as well and medical facilities for such monitoring should be made available at school level. Medical unit at schools should be equipped with a Spiro meter and trained technicians," said Dr. Jain.
The experts warn that cities and concerned authorities/agencies need to be paid adequate attention and healthcare providers should also take responsibilities to sensitize people about pollution and its harmful effects on kid's immunity and health.
Preventive measures are needed to be taken on urgent basis, otherwise India would face a health emergency for kids.