♦ Children have low immunities and are more susceptible to disease compared to adults.
♦ Children have growing lungs, cell division is higher, more pollutants are absorbed at cellular level. Lungs develop till age 20 and until then, the respiratory tract is more permeable and pollutants can enter more easily and deeper.
♦ Particulate matter concentration is highest at lower heights of the atmosphere; as height increases concentration of pollutants decreases. So the air that children, especially young ones, breathe is more sedimented than that breathed in by adults who are taller. A child’s breathing zone is closer to the road, where pollution is high.
♦ Children have the most physical activity, so they inhale more air and hence the pollutants. Studies have shown children breathe more than 50 per cent air per body kilogram of air than adults do, and the respiration rate is also faster.
♦ Children’s airways are smaller, so pollutants that enter cannot get out.
♦ Children are more exposed to air pollution because of their schedule — early mornings when they go to school and air quality is poor, and evenings when they go out to play.
What the study recommended
Regular lung tests for children, schools away from heavy traffic
For lung function
“Considering the high prevalence of lung function deficits among schoolchildren, all children aged nine and above in Delhi should undergo lung function test at least once a year, and those having lung function deficits should be monitored. The medical facilities at schools should include a separate unit for respiratory health, and every unit should be equipped with a spirometer and trained technicians.”
“In view of the high percentages of children with hypertension in Delhi, blood pressure of the children should be checked regularly at the schools’ medical facilities or elsewhere at least once in a year. More frequent follow-up should be undertaken for those children with hypertension and/or obesity. Since hypertension affects some organ functions, medical conditions such as enlarged heart and abnormalities in kidney and eye functions should also be checked.”
“While allotting sites for new schools and child care facilities, due consideration should be given to their distance from roads with heavy traffic and other sources of air pollution. In essence, they should be away from hot spots of localised pollution.”