Extended periods of exposure to PM 2.5 can lead to anaemia among children under the age of 5 years, says a study conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.
The study has found that for every 10 micrograms per meter cube increase in PM 2.5 levels exposure, there is a decrease of 0.07 grams per dL in average haemoglobin levels.
According a report by the Indian Express, this is the first such study carried out in India which links anaemia in children and the air pollutant PM 2.5 exposure.
Dr Sagnik Dey, lead author of the study told IE the study was important as so far anaemia had been looked at through the prism of nutrition deficiency, especially iron. "But even if government programmes like Poshan Abhiyan were strengthened, till air pollution is curtailed or exposure of children to PM 2.5 is brought down, anaemia is likely to continue to persist,” he said.
WHO states that anaemia affects 1.62 billion people in the world, which accounts for about 28% of the global population. Anaemia is a medical condition where the quality or the quantity of red blood cells in the body reduces, leading to a lack of oxygen-rich blood. Anaemia can occur due to many reasons such as iron deficiency, blood loss or pregnancy.
In most anaemia cases, the person lacks iron in their body, therefore the anaemia is known as iron-deficiency anaemia. Iron is essential for the body as it is used for the production of red blood cells and haemoglobin, which are needed for oxygen delivery to various organs of the body.
The India National Family and Health Survey 2015–2016 showed that 53.1 per cent of women in India with 15–49 years of age and 58.5 per cent of children under five were anaemic.
A total of 98,557 children were a part of the study across 636 districts, based on the findings of NFHS 4. It found out that 63 per cent of the children were anaemic. On average, children with anaemia were slightly younger than with children without anaemia. They were also from lower wealth index levels, and had higher percentages of maternal anaemia.
Europe, China and US has seen studies linking anaemia to PM 2.5, and according to Dey, most of them have focused on adult anaemia. Only one other study has been carried out linking PM 2.5 exposure to anaemia in Lima, Peru, the findings of which are similar to the Indian study.