World Asthma Day: Survey finds 35% kids from Indian metros have poor lung health

In what may come as a shocker for parents, more than one third of school-going kids from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru suffer from terrible lung capacities with children from the national capital topping the charts.

According to a recent survey, around 35 percent of school-going children in India suffer from poor lung health. The nationwide survey conducted by the HEAL Foundation as part of its 'Breathe Blue 2015' campaign said that pollution was one of the major factors for poor lung health in Indian children.

The survey, based on a preliminary lung health screening test (LHST), was carried out on 2000 children aged nine to 15 years.

HEAL conducted this study over three months in Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. It was aimed at mapping the effects of air pollution on breathing capacity of young children.

AFP image.

AFP image.

"Around 35 percent school going children in India suffer from poor lung health confirming the worst fears due to rising air pollution and deteriorating air quality," Manjari Chandra, representative of the foundation, said while presenting the findings in New Delhi.

She said children in the national capital are the worst affected with a total of 40 percent in the "poor" and "bad" zone in the test.

A report in The Times of India said, of the 735 students who took the test in New Delhi, 21 percent had 'poor' lung capacity while 19 percent had 'bad' capacity.

By that estimate, four out of every ten children in Delhi had failed the lung test.

"The survey was observational and we did not look into the cause of poor lung health in children. However, given the fact that most children were otherwise healthy, it will not be wrong completely to infer that poor air quality has a role to play in causing the reduced lung capacity," Dr Preetaish Kaul, representative of HEAL Foundation was quoted as saying.

Mumbai fared better than its contemporaries but it's nothing to cheer about. According to this article in The Times of India, one out of every four children in the maximum city failed the lung test. Although, Mumbai came out on top with 73 percent children showing good lung function.

Bengaluru children came next at 36 percent, while Kolkata ranked third at 35 percent. Parthasarthi Bhattacharya, director of the Institute of Pulmocare and Research, said that preliminary results point to the bad situation in India for children's lung health.

Citing reports, he said lung capacity of Indians is 30 percent lower than that of Westerners. Speaking to The Hindu, Dr Kaul said, "The LHST determines how much air the lungs can hold, how quickly one can move air in and out of his/her lungs, and how well the lungs take oxygen in and remove carbon dioxide out from the body. The tests can detect lung diseases and measure the severity of lung problems. Poor results on LHST mean compromised lung function and high possibilities of contracting pulmonary diseases."

The survey also found that the worst-affected children are those who commute in packed vehicles. Experts added that the trend is worrisome as the affected children are in their growth years and pollution could affect their vital organs.

As Firstpost correspondent Tarique Anwar had noted in this article that doctors in New Delhi were advising parents to leave the town for good if they wanted healthy lungs for their children. Around 22 lakh schoolchildren in the national capital are growing up with irreversible lung damage, he had noted. Rising levels of pollution could cause fatal lungs disorders, severe respiratory problems, nausea, palpitation, loss of vision, blood pressure and fatigue, doctors had said.

Environmental experts said that reckless cutting of trees, unmitigated urbanization and lack of environment-friendly laws, are also major factors for the deteriorating air quality.

The Delhi government has been criticised widely for their lack of action to reduce the levels of pollution in the city. Another study by HEAL Foundation showed that a majority of the citizens held the government responsible for the high levels of pollution in their city.

"India is still in denial about the alarming pollution levels in the national capital. Our government still want to compare itself to Beijing but the Chinese city is already moving ahead. It's pollution levels have reduced, they have put in place a 5-year plan, monitoring systems and an alarm system (to warn of high pollution levels),"Greenpeace campaigner Aishwarya Madineni had told Firstpost earlier.

With agency inputs


Updated Date: May 05, 2015 15:27 PM

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