How Air Pollution Is Affecting Children ?
Created by Megha Chawla Updated on Oct 31, 2019
I live in the ‘millennium city’ called Gurgaon which is in grip of deadly air pollution because it is the business and construction hub. So, I started reading up on everyday things I can do to reduce air pollution and improve air quality, especially at home as we can’t do much about the outdoor. Here’s what I found most relevant
Air pollution has many effects on the health of both adults and children. Over the past several years incidence of the number of diseases has increased greatly, especially in metro cities. Asthma is perhaps the most common disease now followed by allergic reactions, bronchitis, and respiratory infections. Pregnant women and children are more susceptible to the effects of air pollution than anyone. [Read - How to Protect Child From Air Pollution?]
Why Are Children at Greater Risk than Adults from Air Pollution?
Here's how air pollution is affecting children, also some carefully curated tips on how to improve air quality at home and do our bit to decrease pollution. [Read - How Air Pollution Is Affecting Children?]
- A child’s lungs and immune system are immature at birth and continue to develop until the teens. The developing organs are more sensitive to the toxic effects of air pollutants and other toxins, therefore, children tend to absorb pollutants more readily and retain them in the body for a longer period of time
- The thin cell layer inside their respiratory tract which is still developing easily allows everything to pass by
- Children also have a larger lung surface area in relation to their body weight and breathe 50% more air per pound of body weight.
- Children breathe at a higher rate than adults
- Children breathe through their mouths more than from nose which can filter particulates from reaching the lungs.
- Children tend to spend more time outdoors (school, playgrounds) where the concentration of pollution from traffic and other sources is generally higher which results in their breathing more outdoor air compared to adults.
Which Air Pollutants Have The Greatest Impact On the Health of Children?
‘Criteria’ Air Pollutants - The most widespread ones are particulate matter (PM) and Ozone.
Fine Particulate Matter 2.5 PM - comes from a variety of sources such as diesel engines, smoke from the forest, agricultural fires and dust from construction sites. These can easily bypass our body’s natural defense mechanism and go deep into the lungs. PM causes cough, respiratory problems and makes asthma worse. Recent studies show that prolonged exposure to PM may also affect the growth and functioning of children’s lungs.
Ground-level Ozone - Also known as O3, this is formed by chemical reactions involving sunlight and various gases emitted from vehicles, industries, and factories. Ozone is a powerful respiratory irritant that can cause lung inflammation, shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing, cough, and asthma. Prolonged exposure can also lead to malfunctioning of the lung.
Other criteria pollutants include nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, lead, and sulfur dioxide. All these are released into the air whenever we use fuel such as oil, gas, diesel, wood or coal.
What Are the Effects of Air Pollution on Children’s Health and Development?
Here may be the impacts of air pollution on child health. Read here
- Air pollution increases a child’s risk of getting sick by reducing the respiratory system’s ability to fight infection and remove foreign particles.
- Make asthma symptoms worse
- Increase respiratory infections
- Decrease lung function
- Make children more sensitive to allergens
What Can We Do to Reduce the Effect of Air Pollution on Children’s Health?
Reduce the Effect of Air Pollution At Home
- Keep the house floor fresh- Mop twice if possible, rigorous mopping with disinfectants can pick up the dust and allergens.
- Doormats- Put a large and good quality doormat at the main entrance and also at the door of every room. A doormat reduces the amount of dirt, pesticides, and other pollutants
- Consider removing shoes at the door to minimize dust and dirt tracked in from the outdoors.
- Limit the use of carpets and rugs, especially in your child’s room as they trap dirt.
- Install blinds rather than curtains as they attract less dirt
- Dust with a damp cloth rather than a feather duster -- and don't forget hard-to-reach areas such as ceiling fans and the top of the refrigerator
- Keep a healthy level of humidity at home - Dust mites love moisture. Controlling humidity can keep dust and other allergens at bay.
How Can Dehumidify Home?
Here’s how you can dehumidify your home. Use an exhaust fan when cooking. Never overwater houseplants. Never dry clothes indoor. Fix leaky taps. Empty the air conditioner drip pans
- Limit Synthetic Fragrances at home - Laundry detergents, fabric softeners, air fresheners, hair sprays, and deodorants emit dozens of harmful chemicals in the air. Instead, opt for fragrance- free products or naturally scented products.
- Wash Pillow Covers, Bedsheets and Comforters Regularly to reduce exposure to allergens.
- Make Your Home a No-smoking Zone - Avoid smoking indoors. Tobacco smoke contains thousands of indoor pollutants at high concentrations.
- Invest in Indoor Plants - These are living air purifiers that absorb a lot of chemical pollutants. Some of the plants that help in air purification are Money plant, Aloe Vera, Bamboo palm, Areca palm, Rubber tree, Spider plant, Date Palm and English Ivy. [Read Here - What Are the Precautions for Air Pollution in Winter?]
- Himalayan Salt Lamps - These are lamps made of large pieces of Himalayan salt with a small bulb inside, these lamps help in improving indoor air quality and reducing allergens.
What to Remember While Shopping: Always Buy Smart
- Update home appliances and air conditioners with low energy models
- Turn lights off and uses low energy bulbs.
- When purchasing a vehicle, select a fuel-efficient model
- Choose products that have less packaging and are reusable
Advice These Health Tips to Children
- If possible schedule all outdoor activities early morning.
- Avoid peak rush hour times and high traffic areas (when pollution levels are highest)
- Plan activities or play dates indoors in a cool, well-ventilated area.
- Include breathing exercises in your child’s schedule
- Monitor vitamin D levels regularly
- Follow vaccination schedules for your child and avoid missing them
Nutrition Tips that Can Help Children
- Including a high-protein diet
- Moderate fats and carbohydrates
- Limit salt intake
- Adequate fluids for children
- Multivitamin, calcium supplements ( To be taken with consultation of a pediatrician)
- Avoid gas-forming foods