India Air Pollution Detrimental to Kids’ Health

India Air Pollution Detrimental to Kids’ HealthIndia Air Pollution Detrimental to Kids’ Health

The deadly heatwave that swept through India this week has melted streets with its searing 50 degrees Celsius temperatures. But it is also making life even worse for its cities’ most vulnerable residents, as millions of Indian children suffer from lung damage due to the toxic urban air, Gizmodo reported.

India has a number of converging factors that contribute to poor air quality: booming industrialization, exceptionally crowded cities, unchecked vehicle regulations, and the widespread burning of trash. But exactly how dangerous is India’s air for kids?

According to a study by the Kolkata-based Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, which tracked the health of 11,000 Indian children aged 4 to 17 for three years, found that key indicators of respiratory health, lung function to palpitation, vision to blood pressure, children in Delhi, between four and 17 years of age, were worse off than their counterparts elsewhere — the figures were twice to four times as bad.

The researchers conducted lung tests on 5,718 students, and the results showed that 43.5% suffered from “poor or restrictive lungs.”

About 15% of the children surveyed complained of frequent eye irritation, 27.4% of frequent headache, 11.2% of nausea, 7.2% of palpitation and 12.9% of fatigue.

Also, Delhi’s numbers were far higher than that among the control group of 4,536 students selected from 17 schools spread across the “much less polluted” rural areas of Uttaranchal and West Bengal.

The conclusion was nothing less than devastating: About half of the 4.4 million children who live in Delhi have irreversible lung damage.

While the smog in China’s booming megacities receives constant press, the air in India is far worse. According to a World Health Organization ranking that measures air quality, 13 of the 25 cities worldwide with the highest concentration of particulate matter are in India. Delhi’s air is twice as bad as Beijing’s.

Gardiner Harris, the writer of a recent New York Times article which pointed to the study, provides a frightening personal twist on the data: After moving his family to India, his own son suddenly developed asthma and doctors later discovered that he had lost half of his lung capacity. This not only makes his son more likely to develop other diseases, it will probably shorten his lifespan.

When Harris went looking for medical counsel concerning his son, one researcher provided simple advice: “If you have the option to live elsewhere, you should not raise children in Delhi.”