‘Exposure to biomass burning at early age can affect height’

Delhi: 12 July, 2021 (Times of India)

New Delhi: A new study conducted by experts from IIT-Delhi and Ashoka University says that exposure to extremely high levels of biomass burning early in life can affect the height of adolescents in the country.
The study, which has been published in ‘Resource and Energy Economics’, stated that that high-intensity biomass burning is associated with lower adolescent height for teenage girls in India. “We find that girls who were exposed to extremely high levels of biomass burning during their early life have lower height by −1.07 cm or a decrease of 0.7 percent,” said the study. “The underlying non-pollution mechanisms at play suggest reduced labor supply, reduced consumption of food items like milk and cereals and increased sickness in the households as revealed by higher medical expenditures in response to an increase in fire-activity.”
The early life in the study has been defined as the period from prenatal (9 months in-utero period) to postnatal period (6 months after birth). The research also stated that girls from North India are found to be especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of exposure to biomass burning.

“Chronic exposure to pollution affects human health and height among adolescents is one of the outcomes. The study establishes a statistically significant association between exposure to extremely high level of biomass burning and effect on height of adolescents. However, a cohort study needs to be done,” said Sagnik Dey, institute chair and associate professor, Centre for Atmospheric Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, and one of the researchers. The other researcher of the study is Prachi Singh from Ashoka University.

For the study titled ‘Crop burning and forest fires: Long-term effect on adolescent height in India’, the researchers combined remote sensing data on biomass burning events with a pan-India survey on teenage girls (TAG survey). They used geo-codes of sampled PSUs (village name or census enumeration block name) in TAG dataset and calculated the total number of fire-events occurring in the 75 km radius around the PSU location.
However, the study said one of the limitations of the research was that they were not able to capture the genetic factors associated with height of an offspring as TAG dataset does not collect anthropometric information for parents.