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Delhi Air Pollution Is A Public Health Emergency, Experts Warn

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By: Joymala Bagchi
Updated: November 2, 2022 19:48
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Even as Air Quality Index in Delhi oscillated between “very poor” and “severe” on Wednesday, environmental and health experts have cautioned that inhaling polluted air will be just as dangerous for us as drinking contaminated water is. And just like government has made elaborate system of delivering safe and clean tap water to every household, similar measures must be taken to ensure  clean air for breathing, at least inside ones house. Other experts were of the opinion that the current AQI levels should not be taken lightly and treated like a public health emergency.

Respiratory illness are a product of  prolonged exposure to polluted air.

Central Pollution Control Board’s ‘Sameer’ app shows the official Air Quality Index of close to 170 cities at 12:10 pm. Major pollution hotspots in Delhi-NCR –  Bahadurgarh, Ballabgarh, Delhi, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Greater Noida , Gurugram , Noida, Manesar, all had  very poor category.

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Take a look at the dismal AQI figures released by Central Pollution Control Board for today.

Bahadurgarh 343
Ballabgarh 320
Delhi 382
Faridabad 349
Ghaziabad 336
Greater Noida 335
Gurugram 319
Jind 328
Noida 343
Sonipat 303

In fact, the situation is so bad that NCPCR took sou motu cognizance of poor air quality in the national capital and wrote a letter to the Chief Secretary asking govt to “consider taking a decision to close down schools till the time the air quality improves.

Shockingly even among the very poor category, Delhi’s AQI levels reached the highest with 382.

A further dissection of the by the DPCC shows Delhi’s Anand Vihar and Bawana region AQI has crossed from very poor category to severe category.

Speaking with The New Indian renowned environmentalist Vimlendu Jha says, “the reason why deliberations on cleaner air was short lived was because its approach was inaccurate and dishonest. The reality is that the unprecedented rain that Delhi received, the weather conditions along with wind direction and early Diwali (which was 10 days earlier than last year) made the weather condition and the atmospheric situation slightly better. But to self congratulate oneself and claim that Air pollution has reduced in Delhi and NCR because of govt’s measures is dishonest and mischievous.”

“Jha in addition says, “Delhi/ NCR is in a vulnerable situation and it is definitely a public health emergency. The 15 point recommendation by the Delhi chief minister it is actually again the same circular that they are publishing just on the eve of pollution day and it never talks about something like medium term or long term actions. Reality is Delhi’s air pollution has to be dealt in a more systematic way. We as citizens and as experts  are tired of hearing the constant bickering and here we are paying the price through our lungs and our health.”

Dr Bobby Bhalotra, pulmonologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said, “the severity in patient is directly proportional to the amount of pollution present in the air. These pollutants can be a combination of particulate matter, chemicals, vehicular exhaust, burning of stubble and burning of crackers. The rises in the level of pollutants are due to two reasons the pollutants are getting emitted in the season are more because of stubble burning, construction, cold air precipitating the entire fog into smog.”

“People who suffer from Sinus, asthma, Chronic Inflammatory Lung Disease are much more vulnerable to the increasing amount of irritants in the air,” the doctor suggests.

The solutions as provided by the doctor is to avoid exposure to these pollutants.

“They should not venture out during office hours, especially when there is traffic. People should plan their ‘walk’ only when there is a sunshine. Even inside the house people should reduce the pollutants by using exhaust fan, air purifier more,” said Dr. Bhalotra.

The rising air pollution is concerning because its effects could result in serious health consequences for elderly, children, pregnant women and patients who have existing lung and heart ailments.

Dr. Lancelot Pinto leading Respirologist believes country needs to attempt to access clean air with the same rigour as we have been aspiring to keep our drinking water clean.

Dr. Pinto says “while one tends to focus on outdoor pollution, it is important to acknowledge the fact that indoor air pollution could potentially have a larger impact on health, since most of us spend a majority of our time indoors.”

“During winters, which often tend to be the months with the poorest air quality, respiratory symptoms worsen, especially among those with asthma, COPD and other chronic heart and lung diseases. Focusing on indoor triggers such as dust, mold growing on walls, and indoor pollutants should be an important exercise in preventive health. High efficiency air purifiers could be a valuable add-on, especially among groups who are vulnerable, the doctor adds.

India Meteorological Department observes that a fresh western disturbance very likely to affect Western Himalayan Region from November 04 and its adjoining plains from November 05. This might bring some relief for the Northern region and clean the air.

With rise in air pollution every year there has been an increasing demand for medication for Pneumonia over the years . However its accessibility and affordability have remained a huge problems that Pharma companies have been attempting to overcome.

Raheel Shah, Director, Business Development, BDR Pharmaceuticals Int’l Pvt Ltd said, “several studies conducted globally have found that exposure to air pollution in ambient air as well as outdoor air pollution doubles the risk of developing pneumonia. Following exposure, these air pollutants weaken the host’s immune response to invading pathogens in the respiratory tract.”

” The last 2 years have been all about covid, but pneumonia has been brought into the spotlight when people suffering from covid also become infected with pneumonia,” Shah added.

Government has taken many decisions to curb air pollution whose efficacy is being questioned. From Odd and Even to suspending all construction activities nothing seems to have reined in air pollution in Delhi.

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