World Environment Day - Pollution impact on children
It’s a fact that children are more active and keeping them indoors is not easy. This lifestyle makes them gasp more air thereby, increasing their risk of falling sick due to inhaling contaminated air. The dangerous tiny particles also have the potential to enter the bloodstream and the lungs to cause acute lower respiratory infections, like pneumonia and influenza. As a result of this exposure, adverse respiratory health problems leading to several acute and chronic diseases can affect the children.
Risk of brain development and sometimes even brain damage is another danger for the young ones inhaling the impurities (especially heavy metal pollutants from fossil fuel combustion) from the air. This can result in slowing down the development of the young brain. These harmful gases can further reduce the growth of white matter, a crucial element that helps the different parts of the body communicate with the brain thus leading to learning difficulties.
Also, for children below one year of age, these pollutants can damage their nervous system and cognitive development. This can further affect their IQ adversely, including verbal and nonverbal IQ.
The presence of Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a group of organic compounds commonly found in the environment due to the incomplete burning of oil, wood, garbage, or coal cause a major threat to human health and developmental delay in children. The infants at three years of age were more likely to be developmentally delayed and were more prone to psychological and behavioural problems later in childhood. This could be in the way of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and depression.
Just like the external growth of a child is correspondent to his/her age i.e. the arms, legs, head, and height, everything takes its time; the internal unseen organs too develop with age. For example, lungs and alveoli, the tiny sacs within our lungs to move through the bloodstream take 18 years i.e. till the child becomes an adult to grow completely. Similarly, the immune and metabolic systems of a child also takes time to develop and protect the human body against harmful substances. When exposed to the polluted air, it can alter the immune system and thus, increase the chances of allergies and asthma in them.
Having said that, the effects of pollution is not only adverse for young children, but also for the ones in the womb. This, therefore, makes pregnant women vulnerable to its side-effects as well. These to-be-born children, when exposed to unclean air through their mothers, can result in adverse outcomes like premature birth and low birth weight, stillbirths, and even autism more