Do we know the kind of air children in our country are breathing? A recent survey has revealed some alarming figures which every concerned citizen needs to think deeply about. Around 35 per cent of school-going children in the country suffer from poor lung health. The survey titled ‘Breathe Blue’ 15’ was carried out by HEAL Foundation and ‘Breathe Blue’, a part of Clean Air India Movement (CLAIM). It studied the effects of air pollution on breathing capacity of young children in the age group 8-14 years. The situation is particularly bad in the metros. In Delhi 40 per cent, in Bangalore 36 per cent and in Kolkata 35 per cent school children were found to have poor lungs due to breathing polluted air. With World Health Organization (WHO) recently stating that 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India, the issue has become a pressing health concern facing the country. In an earlier survey in Delhi, identified by WHO as the most polluted city in the world, many school children were found to have lungs like those of chronic smokers. Interpreting the findings of the recent ‘Breathe Blue’ survey, health experts are pointing out that while rising air pollution in the country poses serious health risks for all, it is more worrisome for children as they are still in their growing stage with vital organs of the body physiologically not mature enough to deal with it. Experts have therefore called for an urgent need to raise awareness among people and figure out ways to deal with this issue effectively. But the CLAIM survey also found another worrisome fact — that most people think it is the government’s sole responsibility to guarantee clean air, and that they cannot do much about it. Most drivers and owners of bikes, non-AC cars and AC cars were found to be either too lazy to even turn off their engines, or they thought idling engines did not produce much fumes. More than two-thirds vehicle owners did not even know when their ‘pollution under control’ (PUC) certificates were due for renewal. Most adults who participated in the survey were found to believe that their lungs are healthy as they do not smoke and have no breathing difficulties. What they did not know is that the air they are breathing is as much or even more hazardous as smoking cigarettes. Unless we are not aware about pollution and do not individually keep away from polluting the air, before long we and our children will be fighting a losing battle against a ruway problem.
food for thought