Respiratory illness plague under-5 kids in Ennore power plant, says study

A health study conducted by Healthy Energy Initiative and postgraduate public health students from the School of Public Health, SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Chennai, found that respiratory illnesses were very high among ‘under 5’ children living around the Ennore Thermal Power Plant cluster.
Respiratory illness plague under-5 kids in Ennore power plant, says study
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Chennai: More than 63 per cent of the 207 under-5 children from the Ennore area reported having experienced one or more respiratory symptoms in the month preceding the survey, the study said.

The study revealed that respiratory infection (RI) among children was very high, compared to the data from Government of India’s 2019-2021 National Family Health Survey for Chennai and Tiruvallur. NFHS records a prevalence of acute RI symptoms of one per cent among under-five children from Chennai and 3.9 per cent for Tiruvallur. The current study records a prevalence of 63 per cent among children in the Ennore area.

Respiratory illness rates were highest in Arunodhaya Nagar and Kattukuppam; all 13 children surveyed in Arunodhaya Nagar reported one or more symptoms of RI in the 30 days preceding the survey, while 32 kids out of 37 surveyed from Kattukuppam had been sick with one or more respiratory symptom in the preceding month.

Sivanpadaiveethi Kuppam and AIR Nagar too recorded a high prevalence — 61 per cent and 49 per cent — of respiratory distress among children. Running nose was the most common symptom with 48 per cent of kids reporting it; 40 per cent reported having suffered nasal congestion, 35 per cent reporteddry cough and 5 per cent reported wheezing.

The study confirms reports by committees set up by the National Green Tribunal in various cases. In November 2021, a CPCB-TNPCB joint committee found that the carrying capacity of the Ennore area for particulate (dust) pollution had exceeded due to emissions from just one source — namely, TANGEDCO’s North Chennai Thermal Power Station.

Adhilakshmi, a mother from Kattukuppam, said that they had abeen poisoned for the last 30 years. “The pollution control board is useless and does not regulate any of the industries. Now, with ETPS, they want to set up another coal plant and want to know our views. What do they expect us to say?” she asked.

Dr Arvind Kumar, a Delhi-based founder trustee of Doctors for Clean Air and Lung Care Foundation said that it’s frightening to see such a high incidence of respiratory symptoms in children under 5. “This increases the risk of pneumonia in children, and even leads to death in many cases!” he said.

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