Not just lungs, a lot more is at risk due to air pollution

Mental health of children and even unborn babies are impacted due to poor air quality

GN Bureau | December 7, 2017


#Air pollution   #health   #brain   #unborn child   #development  

 All this while doctors in Delhi have been repeatedly warning about the health risk, particularly to lungs, due to the toxic air in the National Capital Region. But, two back-to-back studies have shown the alarming impact on health, including one which noted that even unborn babies are affected.

The British Medical Journal said in an editorial “Traffic pollution is linked to poor pregnancy outcomes” HYPERLINK said the conditions that a developing baby is exposed to in the womb can affect its growth and development, with lifelong implications for health.
 
“Exposure to environmental chemicals and stress in utero can lead to functional changes in tissues, and predispose the child to diseases that manifest later in life. Being born small is the most well studied marker of such future ill health, with birthweight inversely correlated with cardiovascular and metabolic diseases,” it said.
 
Though London-based, the study is relevant for India too as the national capital has repeatedly been smothered by a thick blanket of smog.
The bmj.com said that air pollution from road traffic, but not traffic noise, is associated with low birth weight at term. The inference is that reducing exposure to air pollution from road traffic will not only improve the health of current adult populations, but has the potential to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases in future generations too.
 
The association between air pollution, pregnancy complications, and childhood illness is not new. Small particle pollution exposure in pregnancy has previously been linked to fetal growth, as well as preterm birth, stillbirth, and respiratory morbidity in children, the editorial added.
 
Unicef in its report said that air pollution potentially affects children’s brains and the majority of children at risk are in South Asia.
The Unicef analysis focusing on very young children under the age of one has found that nearly 17 million babies live in areas where outdoor air pollution is at least six times higher than international limits – potentially putting their brain development at risk simply because of the air they breathe. The vast majority of these babies – over 12 million – are in South Asia.
 
Many of these children are already among the most disadvantaged. Children growing up in urban slums are already at great risk of multiple environmental threats – from lack of clean water and sanitation to risk of infectious disease. Adding high levels of air pollution compounds the risks these children face.
 
The report, titled ‘Danger in the Air: How air pollution can affect brain development in young children’  notes that breathing in particulate air pollution can damage brain tissue and undermine cognitive development – with lifelong implications and setbacks.
 
The air pollution is so bad that on some days it is similar to smoking four dozen cigarettes.
 
When the air quality worsened, qz.com reported that New Delhi is once again choking on extremely high levels of air pollution. In parts of the city, air quality index (AQI) readings have hit 999—the equivalent of smoking 45 cigarettes a day.
 
 
 

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