The recent floods in Chennai have been described as a manmade disaster as opposed to a natural calamity. Polar ice caps are melting faster than ever, and in a few decades, some islands may be submerged completely. The pollution that pervades everything around us is harmful, not just on a large scale, but on the individual level as well.
As per a World Health Organization (WHO) study in 2014, India is among the world’s worst for its polluted air, with thirteen Indian cities in the top-20 list of the most polluted cities in the world. While Delhi is topping the charts, many other Indian cities (both metro and small) are literally suffocating in this pollution as well. The situation has worsened to the extent that Supreme Court has issued a directive to levy an environmental cess on Light Commercial Vehicles and Trucks that enter Delhi.
Another example is that of Bellandur Lake—Bangalore’s largest lake—that has become so polluted with sewage and industrial waste that it catches fire. There is no denying that the situation is grim. As citizens, we have the responsibility of protecting our environment and as parents we have to understand how this polluted environment is affecting our kids so that we can protect them wherever possible.
Here are some of the consequences of pollution on children’s health:
The most marked impact of pollution is in the lungs, and hence, on breathing. Sulphur dioxide that is produced by burning of coal and crude oil, Nitrogen oxides emitted from power plants and particulate matter such as fly ash, diesel exhaust particles, wood smoke and aerosols, all contribute to respiratory issues such as cough, throat irritation, and in some extreme cases, Asthma or chronic Bronchitis.
Children are also prone to developing allergies such as skin rashes and eye irritation due to pollutants. These allergies are more serious that those arising from pollen as these may have a long-term impact on kids’ health. If the kids complain of any such irritation, try not to rub that area and wash it with clean cool water, following up with a doctor’s advice.
Pollution affects just air, but water resources too. Ganga and Yamuna are among the world’s most polluted rivers. Our, groundwater too is gradually getting polluted with oil, pesticides and metals like Arsenic. Rivers and groundwater are the key sources of irrigation as well as drinking water supply. The harmful components of polluted water can make their way into our produce and there’s no way to get rid of them.
Pollution is also affecting our kids’ well-being indirectly as their playing spaces are shrinking because of playgrounds turning into landfills. Parents also tend to limit outdoor time for kids when they see smog outside.
5. Other Health Problems
Exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) causes nausea, headache and dizziness. VOCs emanate from petrol/diesel, cleaning and disinfecting chemicals, air fresheners and wood burning stoves. Considering the number of vehicles on the road at any point, it is no surprise that kids have no choice but to breathe them in every day.
It is important for us to limit the pollution we cause to the environment on a personal level to begin with. We also need to teach our kids the same, because if we were to keep going the way we are right now, we may not have a planet to live on in a few centuries.