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Unattended toxic air : A genocide in making Increasing air pollutants are clogging India's skylines and it is turning out to be a silent killer, writes Prathiba Raju


he day is not far away when people will have to buy canned pure air and carry oxygen cylinders when they step out of their home, as inhaling fresh air is turning out to be a luxury in the ensuing years. With alarming levels of air pollutants, cocktail of toxic air emitted out is transpiring to be a rising health hazard for India. As per World Health Organisation (WHO) 1.4 million people in India die pre-maturely due to air pollution, which is one life lost every 23 seconds. GlobalData, a data and insights solution providers, shared WHO's ‘Ambient Air Pollution: A Global Assessment of Exposure and Burden of Disease’ report 2016, revealing that air pollution had caused a total of 0.6 million deaths in India in 2012. Acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI), Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), ischaemic heart disease (IHD), lung cancer and stroke were key responsible diseases that caused these deaths. Furthermore, due to air pollution associated diseases, India has also

lost approximately 20 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and approximately 12 million years of life lost (YLLs). WHO's satellite data and ground monitoring data indicates that the Ingo-Gangetic plain in particular is highly exposed to air pollution. A report published in The Lancet on the first annual assessment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) health performance, launched at a special event at the UN General Assembly in New York, ranked India at 143rd, which was below Comoros and Ghana. India was placed just ahead of Pakistan and Bangladesh that were ranked 149th and 151st respectively. India’s poor performance on air pollution was one of the factors that placed it lower than countries like Bhutan, Botswana, Syria and Sri Lanka. Several studies have shown that large parts of India fail to meet the safety levels of exposure, indicated Global Data, and it informed that a survey conducted by the US-based institutes Health Effects Institute (HEI), University of Wash-

ington and the University of British Columbia, observed that India’s worsening air pollution caused approximately 1.1 million premature deaths in 2015. The developed nations such as the US, Australia and Spain are considered the least polluted countries of the world. On the other hand, India, China, the Middle East and North African countries are the most polluted nations in the world. Stating that a large number of Indians are breathing unsafe air, Dr T Raja, DM (oncology), Apollo Hospitals, Chennai said, “More than one million Indians are killed every year by indoor pollution inhaled from dung-fuelled fires, stoves and lights. Low standards for vehicle pol-

India’s air pollution caused around 1.1 million premature deaths in 2015

lution and fuels are the reason for this situation. The serious impact of this is reflected in the rising asthma rates in the population, including children. PM2.5 is causing cancer, triggering heart attacks and stroke. Air pollution produces ‘oxidative stress’, which damages the cells caused by excessive oxidation in the body. This, in turn, lead to the development of cancerous lung cells. Research also prove that exposure to polluted air can cause serious damage to the respiratory tract in multiple ways.” A worldwide analysis conducted by the WHO in 1622 cities for PM2.5 reported that 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, are in India, which showcases that a large number of Indians are breathing unsafe air. This is true in cities, but the rural areas are neither spared.

Air pollution – a ticking time bomb India is sitting on a ticking time bomb called air pollution and if we delay, we are bound to reach a point of no-return. Air pollution poses a far more

extensive health hazard, and triggers a rising number of asthma cases, especially in children and the elderly. Longtime exposure to polluted air is now being recognised as a leading cause of lung cancer, in addition to causing heart attacks and strokes. There are short and long-term effects of air pollution. Short-term effects may be temporary and include pneumonia, bronchitis, irritation to the nose, throat, eyes, or skin, headache, dizziness and nausea. If the air quality is not fixed, we will face long-term effects. Long-time exposure to polluted air is recognised as a leading cause of lung cancer, in addition to causing heart attacks, strokes and respiratory diseases such as emphysema. It can also cause damage to people's nerves, brain, kidneys, liver, and other organs. Air pollutants are also suspected to be linked to birth defects. According to the The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), every year, approximately two billion children in the world are breathing polluted air. It is notewor-



June 2017

Profile for Indian Express

Express Healthcare (Vol. 11, No. 6) June, 2017  

India's Foremost Healthcare Magazine

Express Healthcare (Vol. 11, No. 6) June, 2017  

India's Foremost Healthcare Magazine