Air pollution affects the young and the old, but does the intensity with which it attacks a person remain constant across all age groups? Absolutely not!
Any child is a victim of air pollution, but the youngest children are at a maximum risk. UNICEF comments that almost 17 million babies (under the age of 1) live in some of the most worst affected regions of the world where outdoor air pollution is six times higher than prescribed limits. More than 12 million babies among these affected ones live in South Asia.
A Small Introduction to a Big Threat
Air pollution is the cause for one of the biggest killers of children, pneumonia and several other diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory infections and diseases. To add to this already existing misery, a growing body of scientific evidence points air pollution to have a serious effect on the developing brains of kids. Air pollution has a lasting negative effect on the children’s brain through several mechanisms:
Studies prove that increased air pollution rates affect cognitive outcomes, such as reduced verbal and nonverbal IQ, memory, test scores and other neurological behavioral problems. Air pollutants inhaled during pregnancy can cross the placenta and affect the developing brain of the fetus which can have lifelong effects such as low birth weight which poses risks for healthy childhood development. Hence the recommendation to pregnant mothers to avoid smoking during pregnancy.
In some children, it can even cause attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), anxiety and depression after the age of five.
Curbing these Dangerous Side Effects
Hazardous air pollution effects can be prevented by:
Healthy diet and lifestyle changes reduce the effects of air pollution on kids. Visit the website www.firsteatright.com to get in touch with a nutritionist/dietitian who can guide you with appropriate instructions on following a healthy lifestyle.
‘Knowing our air’ is the first step towards action. Many cities around the world are installing monitoring stations to assess and publicize air pollution in real time on the internet. During the 1970s and 80s, air pollution due to gasoline combustion containing lead was said to cause serious damage to children’s nervous system and cognition and leaded gasoline was banned in almost every country worldwide.
Research shows that a variety of other air pollutants are causing harm to the children’s brains and needs immediate action. Reducing air pollution has a series of other benefits as well-helps reduce greenhouse gas emission which in turn fights against climate change they cause. This is a win-win situation for the kids, the society and the future.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.