World’s Most Polluted City Affects the Future Health of Millions of Children
Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that Delhi, India is the most polluted city in the world. Delhi is home to a large younger population, putting the future health of millions of children at risk.
Children no longer play outside, many preferring the safety of their homes rather than the dusty, polluted outdoors. Even when the searing Indian summer temperatures subside in the evening, children remain indoors.
Adhinav Agarwal, a pediatrician in Vaishali, says that about one-third of his patients suffer from chronic respiratory ailments. This is a direct consequence of the appalling pollution in Delhi.
According to the survey released last year by the WHO, Delhi has “an annual average of 153 micrograms of the most dangerous small particulates, known as PM2.5s, per cubic metre.” To put this information into perspective, Delhi’s level of particulates is six times the WHO’s recommended maximum, 12 times the level of U.S. standards and more than twice the level considered safe by Indian authorities.
Because nothing has been done to lower the level of particulates, there are now fears that millions of children in India will suffer serious health problems later in life. This will cause a domino effect, affecting the future generations of children.
Dr. Guleria, a lung specialist at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, voices his concern, “If you look at lung function in children [here], there is significant decline with constant exposure. This will probably be irreversible. For adults, there is also a more rapid decline that usual with age. Some suggest it is the equivalent of smoking around 10 cigarettes per day.”
The severity of health problems depends on the level of exposure. However, many children in India often ride a bike or walk to school along busy roads. While trying to further their education, children are exposed to high doses of toxic chemicals and damaging particulates every day. And even while attending school, children are continually exposed to damaging chemicals and particulates as “Daily levels in schools are four times worse than those that are supposed to trigger alerts in London.”
The pollution in Delhi has been caused by the emergence of modern conveniences. Traffic is very heavy at all times of the day. Families often own more than two cars, increasing the traffic congestion.
But traffic is not the only factor adding to the pollution. Huge landfill rubbish dumps are set on fire. Industries that pump out pollution daily are located just a few miles outside the city. Construction sites generate clouds of dust. And seasonally, crop fields are burned in neighboring states.
Many parents are worried about their children’s health, but they cannot afford to send their children to a boarding school or move out of the city.
Delhi has seen improvement decreasing the pollution, but these efforts have slowed or stopped completely. Health experts urge the government to implement strategies to slow pollution.
Many have only looked at the problem of pollution from an economic standpoint, yet the cost of health has been forgotten. A generation of children is expected to have lasting health problems, and future generations will likely face the same health consequences if nothing is done to improve the air quality.
– Kerri Szulak
Sources: BBC, The Guardian