Cost of pollution.

OVER the last seven months or so, our daughter has been unwell a number of times. The usual symptoms have been high fever and a cough. A couple of times the fever and cough went away after a week with only cough syrups and anti-fever medicines, but a few times she had to go through a course of antibiotics before she started to get better. The cough seems to linger on longer. She has also been on anti-allergy medications for extended periods over this time.

This is not an atypical experience. In our daughter's class and school, many children have been going through the same thing over the past many months. A lot of children have missed school for many days, largely due to cough and fever.

The cost of missing school, aggregated across millions of children living in Lahore alone, is staggering. Add to it the health cost and the possible impact on the future health and well-being of all children and the situation looks very alarming.

On any typical day when I have gone to drop our daughter to school, there are a couple of children in her class who have a cough but are still at school. Again, a lot of friends have been telling me, this is not out of the ordinary at all. A lot of children have been a lot sicker over this winter in particular but it started well before the cold season.

Is this the cost our children are paying for living in a high-smog and polluted environment?

Environmental pollution reduces life expectancy and also the IQ of our children.

There has been some acknowledgement of the issue from the government side as well. Schools were shut down on Fridays to reduce the exposure of children to smog and pollution, winter vacations were also extended by a week or so and one of the reasons given for it was the smog.

Social media keeps telling us that the cost of living in a high-pollution environment is actually much greater than just being sick. It reduces life expectancy and it also reduces the IQ of children exposed to it for extended periods.

Exact estimates for these impacts could be difficult to work out as they may depend on exposure levels and many other factors, but the fact alone that these impacts are there is scary enough. But there has been little action on the part of the government, beyond some acknowledgement, to address the issue so far.

A friend, who is living in Beijing currently, was telling me how the city had much higher pollution levels a decade ago, but, today, though it is still not where it wants to be, the...

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