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Nov 15, 2017 10:13 AM IST | Source:

Delhi pollution woes: Kids in the capital have smaller lungs compared to children in US thanks to poor air quality

Air pollution takes six million lives each year worldwide, and India tops the list where 1.9 million premature deaths occur due to outdoor and indoor air pollution

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The pollution in Delhi is not just making its inhabitants ill but it is also resulting in underdevelopment of children. Kids growing up in polluted environments of Delhi have reduced lung growth compared to the children in developed countries like the US, a study published in the Journal of Indian Paediatrics has revealed.

The study conducted by Prof SK Chhabra, former Director-Professor at Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute and now Head of Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Primus Hospital in New Delhi, shows that Indian children have slower growth of lungs and reach a final size that is lower than that of Caucasian-White children in the US.

Despite that, at the age of eight, children in both the countries have the same size of lungs, by the time they attain the adulthood, there is a difference of 10 percent between lung sizes of children of both countries.

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The study highlights that air quality and childhood infections adversely affect lung growth besides genetic factors. Smaller lungs translate into poorer exercise capacity and greater vulnerability to respiratory symptoms and diseases. Given the fact that 40 percent of Indian children reside in cities, this is a scary situation.

“If this does not wake us up to the health emergency, what will? Those who are in denial of environmental pollution-related deaths and illness in India should understand that the scary death tally and illness of Indians and children makes a mockery of India’s growth story,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment.

“India will have to do drastically a lot more to reduce pollution exposure and not less of it. It will be criminal not to act on the mounting health evidences and ask for more evidences from our own children, elderly and vulnerable. Indian lung is not different from others.”


Air pollution takes six million lives each year worldwide, and India tops the list where 1.9 million premature deaths occur due to outdoor and indoor air pollution, says the Report of the Lancet Commission on Health and Pollution.

A State Level Disease Burden report released by Indian Council of Medical Research and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare remarked that indoor and outdoor pollution is the second biggest risk factor for non-communicable diseases surpassed only by continuing impacts of maternal and child nutrition.

Despite the surge in life expectancy of Delhiites, which has gone up from about 64 years in 1990 to 73 years in 2016, the quality of life has declined owing to a comparatively greater incidence of diseases.
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