Guwahati, Monday, December 07, 2009
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Children facing brunt of air pollution
Staff Reporter
 GUWAHATI, Dec 6 – Most of them have not heard of global warming or Green House Gas emissions, but children across the State are falling victim to vehicular pollution at a worrying rate. Exhaust from vehicles is identified as the prime source of air pollution in most areas of the State as industrial activities are limited or concentrated in some pockets.

According to doctors, various respiratory problems are up in children, and they are also complaining of ailments like irritation of the eye, nausea, and skin infection.

According to a senior doctor at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, the effects of pollution have become pronounced in children during the last few years. More young boys and girls are coming in with illness that can be traced to pollution. The most vulnerable are very young school going children, who are unable to take basic precautionary steps.

“The respiratory tracts of children are very sensitive, and slightest amounts of pollution can cause irritation. In larger amounts, pollutants can cause serious harm to various organs,” he said.

Exhaust from vehicles contains several dangerous pollutants including Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxides, Sulphur Dioxide, particulate matters, and lead. Together they can affect vision, cause nausea and headaches, and even harm the cardio-vascular system. Children have also been known to suffer from a range of allergies due to their presence in the air.

Jyoti Sarma, a mother of two boys, said that her younger son had repeatedly experienced bouts of allergic infections for almost a year. After doctors said that it could be caused by exposure to pollution, she finally decided to get him transferred from his school, which was situated adjacent to a traffic congested road.

People have from time to time raised the issue of vehicular pollution in different urban areas of Assam, but so far old vehicles, heavily laden vehicles, and poorly maintained vehicles continue to pollute the environment.

When asked, an official with the Transport Department was frank in saying that there was a shortage of staff to monitor and penalise polluting vehicles. The lack of pressure from higher authorities has further encouraged an apathetic attitude among the officials concerned, he added.

Studies have proved that a large percentage of offending vehicles run on diesel. However, there have been little efforts on the part of the state government authorities to check such vehicles, as a result of which they have continued to emit harmful gases.