In-school children exposed to toxic air: study

Nagpur:- The school time for children is fraught with toxic air, a new scientific study is revealing. Under its Schools for Clean Air Project, Clean Air Asia, an international non-governmental organization, has been tracking air quality in two urban schools for over a year to research the effect air pollution has on children.

The research brought to the forefront that when children are outside exposed to an air quality index of as high as over 300, there are days. It further stressed that children are a vulnerable group because of the high dose of air pollution per lung surface area.

“Kids breathe faster when playing and doing other physical activities, and take in more oxygen and contaminants. Not just respiratory problems, air pollution has also been found to affect schoolchildren’s cognitive development, “it added.

Air quality sensors were installed in the campuses of Modern School, Koradi Road and St Ursula Girls High School in Civil Lines to monitor and analyze ambient air quality within the school environment. Outdoor areas such as playgrounds, main gate and car park were described as the ideal locations for installing the sensors.

Modern School had three sensors installed in its premises with two major coal-fired power plants in its vicinity (Koradi and Khaparkheda Thermal Power Stations). According to a study conducted as part of the study, 85 % of students agreed to experience air pollution near the school. Most have attributed high pollution levels to power plants.

The 16-month air quality data shows the school premises have the highest concentration of deadly contaminants particulate matter 10 and 2.5 between 7 am and 9 am. Apart from that, air quality in winter months  from November to February  is significantly poor.

While the study ascribes vehicle emissions to the sudden rise in contaminants during the morning hours, the temperature inversion is responsible for the degradation of air quality in winters. “The increased burning of biomass in this season is also leading to bad air,” the study stated.

Air quality was found to be lower at St Ursula School, which is situated in a congested area relative to that of Modern School. The park is close to the road and it can be linked to traffic as causing air pollution. Continuous pollutant accumulation in the school’s breathable space is making the air quality low, “the study concluded.

The study recommends vehicle maintenance, use of public transportation and use of non-motorized transportation to improve the air quality. “Ignorance is synonymous with air pollution, and children are sent out to play,” said Prarthana Borah, Clean Air Asia’s India manager.

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