Children Health Is Being Adversely Affected by Air Pollution – Study

In News

A two-year-long study has found that the instances of children going to emergency rooms (ER) for respiratory illnesses due to air pollution are on the rise in the country.


  • According to the study, there is a correlation between ER visits by children and a spike in air pollution levels.
  • It was found that the cause of the respiratory illness is not due to Particulate Matter 2.5 or PM10, but due to nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide.
  • So far, studies have shown the relation between air pollution and its adverse impacts on health. But, the specific impact of nitrous oxide or sulphur dioxide has not been studied.
  • The new study conducted by researchers from AIIMS, CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital and Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute is not yet peer-reviewed and is available as a preprint on ‘medRxiv’.

The Findings

  • Studies have previously found that the impact of air pollution is severe in children than in adults as the lungs of children are not fully developed which makes them vulnerable to lung inflammation and oxidative stress.
  • Also, children retain more air pollutants per unit body weight than adults due to higher respiration rates and outdoor physical activity.
  • The authors of the study noted that when the levels of pollutants nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide spiked, there was an increase in ER visits by children.
  • Nitrous oxide and Sulphur dioxide are predominantly released from vehicular exhaustion and industrial processes.
  • Over two years between June 2017 and February 2017, the study analysed hospital visits of 19,120 children.
  • It was found that there was a rough increase of 21-28% by children manifesting symptoms of acute respiratory disease during days of  ‘high’ and ‘moderate’ level pollution, compared to days of ‘low pollution’.
  • The researchers compared day-wise ER admissions of children with the levels of PM10, PM2.5, Ozone (O3), Nitrous Oxide (NO), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), and carbon monoxide (CO).
  • The children aged between 5 months and 3 years were studied.
  • The key findings of the study were that the ER visits increased corresponding to the increase in SO2 and CO.
  • But, the traditional pollutants PM10 and PM2.5 which were considered as the biggest threat to health had contrary results. When there is a spike in the levels of these visits there were less ER admissions.
  • It was also observed that the ER visits increased over the days preceding pollution spikes, which shows the direct impact of air pollution in exacerbating the respiratory illness.
  • The study was conducted in Delhi where pollution rises in winter.
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