One of the greatest atmospheric threats to children’s health is air pollution. Around 99 per cent of the air is unhealthy to breathe for living beings. However, children fall under the vulnerable subject of the human population. Therefore, the complexity and adverse effects of air pollution multiplies.
What Is Air Pollution?
Air Pollution is a combination of harmful chemicals that makes the breathing air unfit and inappropriate for living beings. Due to this unhealthy air, humans breathe in pollutants in their bodies and, as a result, fall prey to various respiratory diseases. Furthermore, when children live in such air-polluted surroundings, they develop infections and ultimately increase the chance of getting major respiratory disorders in their later years.
Elements of Air Pollution
There are many types and elements of air pollution. Four types of air pollution can be explored. For instance, smog, carbon monoxide, Sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone, particulates, radioactive contamination, and ocean acidification are some of the most common and dangerous types of air pollution. We all know that smog is a significant air pollution experienced in Pakistan and neighbouring countries.
Air Pollution in Pakistan
Pakistan is affected by air pollution throughout the year. And for the last five to six years, the smog has become the sixth season in our versatile country. In addition to raising the risk of chronic diseases in adulthood, air pollution also contributes to low birth weight, asthma, decreased lung function, allergies, and respiratory infections in children and teenagers. Let’s look deep into the reasons and effects of air pollution and smog on children and kids.
SMOG in Pakistan
SMOG is derived from smoke and fog. For the past few years, as the winter arrives, so does the cloudy and clumsy smog that covers the sky in the country’s plains. The factors causing smog include traffic, industrialisation, uncensored urbanisation, ill-framed construction plans throughout the year, and poor waste management. The burning of crops and the use of old ways of brickmaking and masonry also contribute to smog.
Because of smog, the air quality decreases to a hazardous level. In previous years, the AQI index crossed 300+. In 2023, the decrease continued and has touched 400 points. The air quality index (AQI) is a yard ranging from 0 to 500 points to measure air quality.
Adverse Effects of Air Pollution on Children
Air pollution affects the quality of life and simultaneously decreases the quantity of life. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), both outdoor and indoor pollution are directly responsible for respiratory problems and cause deaths of every 1 out of 10 children aged under five years.
Children are more prone to the harmful effects of air pollution because they are still growing, and their lungs and body are still under development. Hence, it becomes crucial to safeguard our children, kids, and future generations from the devil of air pollution. Smog is the devilish face of the air pollution.
Some of the key air pollution facts regarding children’s health are stated in the following.
Air Pollution and smog are directly responsible for breathing and air intake in our surroundings. Therefore, children often get problems regarding the reparatory function of the lungs, and their immune system is also weak.
Children have a different exposure to the atmosphere and air pollution. Outdoor air pollution has contributed to 154000 premature deaths in 2019. Our children are exposed to air pollution, smog or other types in the following areas.
- In their mothers’ wombs
- Schools and kinder garden, grounds and courts
- During Commute to Schools and After School Activities.
Children are more affected than adults because they play on the ground, breathe faster and are closer to the ground. All these factors combine and push our children to be more vulnerable and at risk. The risk factors for our kids due to air pollution and smog are below.
- Low birth weight
- Reduced lung functions and capacity
- Asthma ailment
- Increases Risk of Respiratory, upper respiratory, allergic rhinitis and otitis Infections
- Children’s Psychological and cognitive abilities also face hurdles in growth.
Tips to Fightback Air Pollution and to Keep Children Safe
It is crucial to combat the presence of smog and air pollution collectively. The importance of cutting down this uncontrolled jinni multiplies for Pakistan. For the last four to five years, a major part of the country has been experiencing hazardous levels of air quality. We all must include the collective levels on individual, agricultural, corporate and government levels.
However, in this article, we will include the steps parents and schools can take to safeguard the health and future of kids and school children.
Steps parents can take to protect children
- Check AQI regularly
- Upgrade children’s meals to healthy eating.
- Make the use of masks compulsory in the outdoors.
- Remind children to drink water throughout the day.
- Put air-cleaning indoor plants at your home.
- Guide your children about deep breathing exercises.
- Replace the outdoor activities with indoor activities.
- If affordable, use an air humidifier at your home.
Schools can take the following steps to safeguard kids at schools
- Impose the compulsion to wear masks during school stay.
- Conduct awareness sessions for students to help them know more about smog.
- Replace the on-campus classes with online classes.
- Plant more plants on the school campus.
- Try to change the school timings to avoid the smoke and traffic pollution.
- Follow the national guidelines to stay in alliance with the government work plan.
Moreover, there are certain things the government can do to reduce air pollution in Pakistan.
- Through effective planning in infrastructure development.
- Increase in the national plantation.
- Imposing bans on waste and crop burning.
- Encourage the development of green Pakistan through solar panels and reduction of carbon footprints.
- By improving the transport condition nationwide, reduce the number of private vehicles.
- Also, to impose check and balance to minimise the usage of outdated and unfit vehicles.
Air pollution is a bitter truth that is killing our present and future. It is essential to keep our children safe. To eliminate the adverse effects of air pollution, we must combine our efforts at home, schools, and government planning to safeguard our children from undue health complexities.