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1 in 10 deaths in children under 5 years of age is attributable to air pollution! Such staggering figures sound unbelievable when in reality we are actually living inside a gas chamber and our children are breathing air laced with harmful chemicals and gases. As a mother, the statistics upset me. We, as humans, have the tendency to believe that a little action cannot harm anyone. What we do not realise is that the culmination of little actions can make a huge difference. This habit has brought the state of affairs to the current situation where we do not know whether to encourage our children to go outdoors and play or keep them enclosed inside our houses.
Air pollution is a global problem but India is rapidly rising up the charts in terms of the most polluted countries. The recent smog of Delhi was a harbinger of worse times to follow. When my daughter asked me after watching the news, ’’Mumma, I don’t want to wear the masks they are showing. Is it okay?’’ I was shattered. My generation is handing over this legacy to her’s; nothing is okay! Though we adults are also breathing the same air, the danger and damage posed by air pollution are manifold in children. Here’s why:
Children have a higher respiratory rate- and therefore breathe in more air than adults as compared to their body weights. This results in a greater exposure and risk.
Their immune systems are still immature- and thus their defense mechanisms are not properly functional. This makes them more vulnerable to all infections, including those of the respiratory tract.
Air pollution can have long-term effects in children- As it is the time of growth and development, exposure to pollution during childhood can hamper the process of lung development and result in a lowered lung capacity in future.
The dangers posed:
Air pollution can cause a lot of ailments in children:
Allergies and asthma
Air pollution can result in allergic conditions of the respiratory system and may even trigger acute episodes of asthma.
Pneumonia and half the deaths associated with pneumonia in children are associated with air pollution.
Smoke and pollutants irritate the delicate eyes of children and cause inflammatory or allergic manifestations.
At a time when the brain is rapidly developing, air pollutants may halt the progress or slow it down.
Not only children, even babies inside their mother’s wombs are at risk due to the increasing levels of pollutants in air. Air pollution has been shown to cause low birth weight and preterm babies.
The problem is huge but where is the solution?
The problem, of course, is huge but we must find a solution. It might be late to start but not too late. I have vowed to follow the following practices to do my bit. I hope others do as well.
I have started avoiding unnecessary use of my car and try to walk down to close places.
I avoid sending my daughter out of the house at peak hours of air pollution, that is, when people move to and fro from offices.
I have installed an air purifier at my place to make sure that the air my daughter breathes at home is safe. Surprisingly, indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air which makes it all the more important that our homes are safe.
Most importantly, I am teaching my daughter the importance of resources that nature has given us and how to respect them. I hope we are raising a better generation that makes the world a better and healthier place to live in!