Air pollution affects immunity and result in fatal diseases

-P.Srinivasan / [email protected]

Recently Delhi was in news post Diwali, as people choked as air quality deteriorated. Not only Delhi, other cities including Jaipur, Chennai etc were also hit the headlines with poor air quality.

For last few years, every person is forced to breath in polluted air, which is affecting the immunity system of the body and becoming a reason for fatal disease like cancer.

World Health Organisation (WHO) and many world level institutions have done research on causing cancer due to air pollution and found that pollution is one of the reasons for cancer. In the global trial published recently by WHO, with the increasing size of particle and density, chances of cancer increase. Air pollution can cause cancers including lungs, liver, urinary, intestine and respiratory tract.

The cancer expert medical oncologist Dr Naresh Somani of Bhagwan Mahaveer Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, Jaipur said, “Air pollution quickly affects the human body as it reaches the body with air. Harmful chemicals and dust particles through respiratory tract enter into body and getting mixed with blood affects many parts of human body.”

Dr. Narendra Khippal, Professor and head department of pulmonary department, Sawai Man Singh Medical College, Jaipur said that air pollution not only affects your lungs but other organs also. He said when pollution mixes with fog than it is more dangerous because of stagnation of suspended particulate matter. Particle above 10 micron size are retained at nose but fine particles between 1to 6 micron are inhaled and causing damage in lungs, while ultrafine particles are absorbed and reaches to heart brain kidneys muscles etc.

He said precautions to be taken with the increasing air pollution that one should avoid going outdoor as far as possible and if you are an asthmatic than you are at major risk. The atmosphere is full of pollutants, pollens, toxic fumes. Dr Khippal said that one should avoid outdoor activity before sunrise and after sunset. Ordinary mask does not filter micro particles so it is advisable to use N95 mask.

He advised that windows of your house should be kept closed; windows of car should be kept closed and also keep the ventilator of your car and home air conditioner closed; if on two wheeler cover the face and wear full size helmet; avoid smoking and burning garbage and avoid traffic jams. One should have to take care of their health with increasing pollution.

The Lancet Planetary Health in its Global Burden of Diseases Study 2017 stated that India has one of the highest exposure levels to air pollution globally.

The study stated that air pollution contributes substantially to premature mortality and disease burden globally. The major components of air pollution are ambient particulate matter (PM) and household air pollution.

In India, the major sources of ambient particulate matter pollution are coal burning for thermal power production, industry emissions, construction activity and brick kilns, transport vehicles, road dust, residential and commercial biomass burning, waste burning, agricultural stubble burning, and diesel generators, the study stated.

Household air pollution is caused mainly by the residential burning of solid fuels for cooking and to some extent heating, the major types of which are wood, dung, agricultural residues, coal, and charcoal.

The relative risks for mortality from acute lower respiratory infections, ischaemic heart diseases, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and diabetes due to ambient and household exposure to PM 2.5.

In 2017, 1·24 million deaths in India were attributable to air pollution. Of the total 480·7 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) in India in 2017, 38·7 million were attributable to air pollution. 21·3 million of the total DALYs were attributable to ambient particulate matter pollution and 15·8 million were attributable to household air pollution.

Of the total DALYs attributable to air pollution in India in 2017, the largest proportions were from lower respiratory infections (29·3%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (29·2%), and ischaemic heart disease (23·8%), followed by stroke (7·5%), diabetes (6·9%), lung cancer (1·8%), and cataract (1·5%). The DALY rate attributable to air pollution in India in 2017 was much higher for lower respiratory infections than the rate attributable to tobacco use.


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