Air pollution affects children physically, mentally, causes diseases

Ismail Hossain Rasel, Staff Reporter Published: 30 July 2022, 05:20 PM | Updated: 30 July 2022, 05:26 PM
Air pollution affects children physically, mentally, causes diseases

Day by day, air pollution is increasing in Bangladesh. Specially in Dhaka city, it reached intolerable levels. The silent killer, air pollution, kills thousands of people and leaves numerous ill. Not only that, experts said, air pollution increases the risks of several diseases. As a result, people's life expectancy is declining. But air pollution has the most impact on children. They are infected with various diseases, including asthma.

Environmentalists said everyone has a responsibility to save the whole country, including Dhaka, from air pollution. The amount of dust rises during the winter as the season is comparatively dry. With this, the mixing of dust from brick kilns and cement factories causes a surge in air pollution. The presence of very small particles also soars in the air due to less humidity during the winter. Besides, treatment costs are increasing as a result of air pollution and nature is losing balance.

Raisa studies in Class III at an institution in Dhaka. Due to the coronavirus, educational institutions were closed for a long time. She was attending classes regularly with enthusiasm after schools opened. Recently she is suffering from asthma. Doctors said various difficulties, including breathing problems, are created due to air pollution and Raisa is also suffering from breathing problems from that pollution. 

Raisa's mother Sabina Chowdhury told Jago News, "Schools were closed for a long time becuase of coronavirus. Now my daughter is suffering from respiratory problems and several other complications. Physicians said excessive dust caused her this problem and that is why, they advised her to rest at home for some days. For this reason, I am worried about the continuation of her study. Air pollution turned unbearable level. We, elders, fall sick and littles fall more ill."

Sahab Uddin, the headmaster of Shiddheswari Girls High School, told Jago News that air pollution has serious effects on children. They cannot protect themselves, even cannot understand self-protection and easily are infected with air pollution. Sometimes they cannot maintain cleanliness and do many things unknowingly.

He said, "Children's mental development grows after going to college. They understand nothing about the environment till Class V and everything is new to them during that period. They understand somewhat from Class VI to Class X. Despite this, they don't want to do everything and don't do. Recently I noticed my child doesn't want to use sanitizer, mask and tissue. Here they also cannot be forced to do so. For these reasons, they are affected in many ways."

He also said, "Students stay with us in school for a short period of time. Can we even give them the environment? How many schools have at least two trees? How many schools have natural environments? Each school is supposed to have a garden, can we give them it? We cannot do so. If there were a pond (in school), students would get clean air, we have no opportunity to make it. If there were a reservoir, the environment could be improved. They also face the same problem at home. Every house needs to have a roof garden and open space but we cannot do it. Personally, I am worried about the impact of air pollution on children and about our future."   

The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) has recently published a research report on global air pollution. 

EPIC researchers said Bangladeshis are losing an average of seven years of longevity due to pollution. Researchers analyzed satellite data as the level of PM2.5 (harmful floating particle which hampers lungs) in the air to assess the Air Quality Life Index or AQLI made by EPIC.

In the report given based on it, Bangladesh has been identified as the most air-polluted country in the world.

Researchers said four out of five most affected countries by air pollution are in South Asia as per the index of air pollution. New Delhi of India is the most polluted capital in the world followed by Bangladesh.

Researchers said if the level of pollution could be reduced as per the guidelines of the World Health Organization, then the people of Bangladesh would live another 5.4 years more. The average life expectancy of Dhaka dwellers decreased by 7.7 years due to not controlling air pollution. If there was no air pollution, Dhaka residents would live 8 years longers.

In this regard, Poribesh Bachao Andolon (Poba) Chairman Abu Naser Khan told Jago News, "The impact of air pollution is undoubtedly a serious consequence because there is no benefit if our health condition is not good, whatever we speak about economic development or anything else. What will we do with much development if our children are not physically sound and we fall sick"?

He said pollution is increasing more from the communication system that has been developed around private cars. Brickfields pollute the air dangerously but most brick kilns' technical things were not improved. The process is being taken to convert many types of electronic waste into resources that pollute the environment. "We are going toward a grave consequence if the source of air pollution is not stopped."

He also said, "Air pollution has the most impact on children. Apart from this, older people and pregnant women are also at risk. Everyone is affected if the air is contaminated. Wearing masks can somewhat protect but how is it possible to make them wear masks, we have to think about it. If we cannot stop the source of air pollution, we and our children will not stay healthy."

A survey on the condition of Dhaka's air and sound standard conducted by Waterkeepers Bangladesh Consortium showed that the presence of very small particles PM2.5 in Dhaka's air is five times more than the ideal standard (15 microgram). The presence of PM10 particle is two times more than the ideal standard. The presence of PM2.5 in the air in Shahbag area is 85 microgram per cubic meter. The minimal presence of PM2.5 is in Jatiya Sangsad area which amount is 70 microgram. Highest standard of sound is found in Gulshan-2 area out of Dhaka's 10 places. Standard of sound there is 95.40 decibel, which is 1.07 times more than ideal standard (55 decibel). The existence of high sound is found by 132 decibels in the Gulshan-2 area. Besides, sound standard is 89 decibel in Tejgaon area, 95 dB in Abdullahpur and 31 dB in Jatiya Sangsad area.       

Founder and Chairman of the Center for Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS) Prof Dr Ahmed Kamruzzaman Majumder told Jago News that air and sound pollution became one of the major environmental problems in Dhaka and other cities. Children are most vulnerable to air pollution. Their height is close to the ground. The black fumes omitted from vehicles affect children more. They are more affected by air pollution as their immunity system is comparatively less than others. Pollution also hinders the growth of their lung as their lung is small and weak. Air pollution can cause asthma, allergy, and infection to the nose, eyes and ears of children.

He said, "Seeing this air pollution, a kind of negative perception is created among children about our social system. They identify the surrounding environment as dirty. They feel inferior seeing dark Dhaka streets in reality after watching beautiful environment in television or YouTube on virtual life. It reduces their mental growth."

CAPS director also said air pollution affects children physically and mentally. Now children are very aware compared to previous times. For this reason, children grow up with a type of hate for those who pollute the environment and they cannot think of them as friends. Now children grow up categorizing pollutants as big rivals which does not give us a good message for days ahead.