In Delhi, India, air pollution is a severe public health issue. The city is consistently ranked as one of the most polluted in the world, with particulate matter (PM) and other pollutants substantially surpassing permissible levels. Air pollution has a substantial impact on maternal and child health, raising the likelihood of a variety of negative consequences.
Air pollution has been linked to a spectrum of health complications, ranging from respiratory issues to more severe consequences. Expecting mothers exposed to elevated levels of air pollutants face an increased risk of complications.
The hazardous components of air pollution, such as particulate matter and toxic gases, infiltrate the bloodstream, posing a direct threat to the developing fetus. Moreover, the long-term repercussions extend beyond the delivery room, affecting the child’s respiratory and cognitive health.
As nations grapple with soaring pollution levels, understanding the intricate connection between air quality and maternal-child health becomes imperative. Dr Neelam Suri , Senior Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Laparoscopic and Robotic surgeon, Academic advisor, Deptt of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi shares how can air pollution have an adverse effect on maternal and child’s health.
Dr Suri shares the following problems are the negative consequences of air pollution:
· Low birth weight
· Preterm birth
· Congenital malformations
· Respiratory infections
· Cardiovascular disease
· Developmental delays
Maternal Health Risks
Dr Suri shares, pregnant women are more sensitive to the dangers of air pollution. PM2.5 particles can easily pass the placenta and enter the fetal bloodstream, where they can harm developing organs and systems. Air pollution has been associated to a variety of negative pregnancy outcomes, including:
1. Low Birth Weight: Babies with low birth weights are at a higher risk of a variety of health issues, including newborn death, developmental delays, and chronic disorders later in life.
2. Preterm birth: Babies born before 37 weeks of gestation are also at a higher risk of health complications. Premature birth is the primary cause of death and disability in children under the age of five.
3. Stillbirth: Stillbirth occurs when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of gestation. Even after controlling for other factors such as maternal smoking and socioeconomic status, air pollution exposure has been associated with an increased risk of stillbirth.
Risks to Child Health
Dr Suri shares, children are also more vulnerable to the detrimental impacts of air pollution. Their lungs are still developing, and youngsters are more prone to breathe quickly, which might expose them to more contaminants. Air pollution has been linked to a variety of negative child health outcomes, including:
1. Respiratory infections: Exposure to air pollution can irritate the airways, making children more vulnerable to respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
2. Asthma: Exposure to air pollution is a key risk factor for asthma, a chronic respiratory disease that can make breathing difficult.
3. Cardiovascular disease: Exposure to air pollution can harm the heart and blood vessels, raising the risk of cardiovascular disorders like heart attack and stroke.
4. Developmental delays: Air pollution exposure has been linked to developmental delays in children, including delays in cognitive and motor development.
Dr Suri explains, there are a number of interventions that can be taken to protect maternal and child health from the harmful effects of air pollution. These include:
1. Reducing air pollution levels: This can be accomplished through a variety of means, including reduced automobile emissions, industrial emission management, and promotion of renewable energy sources.
2. Educating the public on the dangers of air pollution is critical for raising awareness of the issue and encouraging preventative behaviors.
3. Giving pregnant women and children access to clean air: This can be accomplished by installing air purifiers in homes and schools, as well as developing green spaces where people can spend time outside without being exposed to excessive levels of pollution.Access to healthcare for pregnant mothers and children: This is critical for the early detection and treatment of health issues caused by air pollution exposure.
In addition to the actions outlined above, Dr Suri mentions that there are a variety of things that individuals may take to protect themselves against the adverse effects of air pollution, such as:
1. Staying indoors when air pollution levels are high particularly during peak pollution hours i.e. early morning and evenings.
2. When going outside, use a mask preferably N95 over surgical.
3. Avoiding intense outdoor exercise while air pollution levels are high.
4. Using an air purifier in the home, but it is not recommended for individuals who regularly out out.
5. Eating a nutritious diet and exercising on a regular basis.
Individuals can contribute to protect their own and their children’s health by taking actions to decrease their exposure to air pollution.
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