Categories: Pulmonology

Air pollution – It’s Time to Act

Out of the various indices, Air Quality Index (AQI) has become the most discussed topic in our country. Like the daily weather report, all the social media are reporting AQI on daily basis. It has been a matter of concern for the last few years, especially it is more spoken about after the festival season in winter. Though attention is given to our National Capital Region (NCR-Delhi), the situation is no better in other cities across the country.

It has become a national issue as the increasing pollution can be hazardous to health. Particulate matter either can be fine or coarse produced by agricultural waste, industrial waste or by traffic vehicles. Particulate matter with a size less than 2.5 cms diameter (PM2.5) is considered to be the most harmful to our system. While the blame game between the farm burning and traffic to be the cause for the worsening of the air quality is never ending, the reality is that both of them contribute more or less in the same proportion.

How does pollution harm our body?

Traffic related air pollution produces nitrates and sulfates, which in turn forms acids in the air. When these acids are inhaled, they form free oxygen radicals, which can damage the airways and subsequently leads to systemic inflammation. As a result of this people can develop diabetes, blood pressure, and other cardiac ailments.

Studies have shown that exposure to fine particulate matter in outdoor leads to about 1,00,000 deaths in Europe annually.

The situation is no better in India, every 1 in 8 deaths are attributed to air pollution.

Among the various ill-effects of air pollution, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) tops the list. Earlier it was thought that smoking was the only cause for COPD, but it is no more truer according to the latest reports, which say about 51% of COPD is caused by air pollution.

Children are the most vulnerable group for this toxic effect. The normal development of their lungs can get hampered when exposed to such levels of toxins. Ultimately these children can have airway diseases in the future.

Protect yourself from air pollution

On the occasion of World COPD day, it is important to understand the causes of the disease and take measures at an individual and public level to prevent the disease.

N95 mask as the name suggests, is capable of filtering 95% of PM 2.5 particles can be used at an individual level to prevent the harmful effects of toxins

Using alternate sources of energy like solar energy and electric energy would help at both the individual and public level in curbing pollution.

Respite from air pollution might not have been given by odd and even rule at the NCR-Delhi area but it is important to impose strict traffic regulations like emission check, decreasing the use of diesel vehicles. Using a milder and less toxic form of fuel and creating more expressways may help in reducing the toxic levels of particles in the air.

It’s time we as responsible citizens of this beautiful planet to wake up and take steps at an individual level and prevent ourselves from choking to death. And remember, if you have a chronic breathing problem, consult your doctor at the earliest and follow the instructions without fail. With air pollution levels steadily rising, it’s imperative that you take precautionary measures to keep yourself safe.

Dr. Syed Zulkharnain Tousheed, Consultant Pulmonologist, Mazumdar Shaw Medical Centre, Bangalore

Narayana Health

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