“The worst nightmare of families living with children in areas ridden with air pollution is actually coming true,” said Dr Sanjeev Bagai, VC and director, Manipal Hospital on Wednesday.”Increasingly, babies below the age of five are exhibiting neurological behavioural disorders like anxiety, attention deficit disorder and development delays. Medical science has proven that these are directly related to breathing in toxic air,” he said.Dr Bagai was speaking at CSE seminar – Stop That Smog. “Polluted air also lowers kids’ IQ and memory, resulting in bad test scores. As it impairs their lungs badly, their sports activities are also limited and it stunts their growth, leading to loss of entire able and productive generations,” he informed.The doctor also referred to a recent UNICEF report stating the same. It said ultrafine particulates such as PM2.5 enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain.These damage the blood brain barrier, a thin membrane that protects the brain from toxic substances, and cause neuroinflammation, which is linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.It said an estimated 17 million babies worldwide – 12 million of them in South Asia – live in areas that record levels six times higher than the global safe limits of 20 microgram per cubic meter for PM10 and 10 micrograms per cubic meter for PM2.5.”Not only do pollutants harm babies’ developing lungs, they can permanently damage their developing brains and, thus, their future,” said Unicef executive director Anthony Lake.He suggested that protecting children from foul air will help societies in terms of reduced healthcare costs, increased productivity and a safer environment.advertisementAir pollution is associated with pneumonia, which kills 18 lakh kids in India every year, and triggers asthma, bronchitis, and other throat and respiratory infections, forcing them to miss school and further limiting their learning and development potential,” said Dr Vinod K Paul, professor of paediatrics at the AIIMS.Also watch | Air pollution plunges New Delhi under thick veil of smog
The Health Ministry’s vector control programme has received a boost with the addition of 14 new vehicles to its fleet, to assist in further controlling the dengue outbreak, which is now on the decline.Speaking at the handing over of the vehicles by the National Health Fund (NHF), at its Marcus Garvey Drive pharmaceutical division, on Friday (January 11), Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, said the vehicles will be particularly helpful in rural areas and hilly terrain, where accessibility for fogging has been challenging.He informed that the $38 million for the vehicles was sourced from an allocation of $111 million that Cabinet decided on, after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, to deal with the dengue control programme until March 31, 2013. Dr. Ferguson disclosed that from the allocation, some 28 fogging machines were also acquired, with plans for a total of 40 to be purchased.“The expectation is that we will get the additional 20 fogging machines this month,” the Minister noted.Meanwhile, the Health Minister said in the last six weeks, there has been a reduction in the number of new dengue cases. Between January and December 22 last year, there were 5,613 clinically suspected cases; however, there were only 746 laboratory confirmations. Ten persons died from the disease during the period.Dr. Ferguson emphasised that despite the reduction, the ministry will not be letting up on control efforts and continues to appeal to all households and businesses to continue to make every effort to destroy breeding sites. He said the ministry will continue with fogging activities and the removal of breeding sites of the aedes egypti mosquitoes, pointing out that between January and December 2012, and particularly in the month of September, over 2,000 communities were fogged, with repeated fogging in some. “Concurrently, approximately 78,932 premises have been searched and approximately 179,390 containers inspected for mosquito vectors. Some 34,739 were found positive (and) 38,645 containers have been treated,” he outlined informed.The Minister added that some 273 tyre shops, 105 garages and 44 dump sites have been inspected and treatment administered where breeding locations were found.