interview: arvind Kumar Delhi

‘34 infant smokers created every minute’

Experts say that barring days that see rain, the Capital’s air quality remains poor all through the year

The minute a child is born and takes his first breath, he/she inhales air which is the equivalent to smoking 10-12 cigarettes a day. Pollution is a serious issue that affects everyone irrespective of our age with the worst sufferers being children and older people. Dr. Arvind Kumar, chairman of the Centre for Chest Surgery and director of the Institute of Robotic Surgery at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital speaks to Bindu Shajan Perappadan about air pollution and the “national emergency-like situation” that the Capital is witnessing.

What is the state of our health in the current context of spiked air pollution levels?

The Capital is today seeing something that is best described as a health emergency. As a doctor in the 90’s, I was seeing patients with pink lungs (healthy) and it was smokers who had black spots. The ultimate manifestation of that was cancer and we had that in the ratio of 90:10, with 90% of lung cancer being seen in smokers.

The situation has taken a turn for the worse now. Now I am seeing people with black spots on their lungs despite not being smokers. We now also have 50% lung cancer cases among women. This is a trend that should have the health emergency bells ringing very loud and very clear.

How does this effect the children?

The minute a child is born and takes his first breath, he/she inhales air which is the equivalent to smoking 10-12 cigarettes a day. On an average, Delhi gets only a few days of respite from pollution during the rainy season, otherwise the air pollution levels stay at ‘poor’ or ‘hazardous’ levels. The situation is so bad that we create 34 infant smokers a minute in this country. The toxic air causes respiratory distress among these newborns and as the toxins get absorbed by the body it causes health and development complications in the brain, heart, kidney and bone marrow.

Does a few hours of cracker bursting add to the air pollution?

Pollution is a serious issue and every day it is allowed to exist at the cost of our health. It affects everyone irrespective of our age with the worst sufferers being children and older people.

Pollution kills everyone and crackers have no religion. When the cracker pollution peaks during Diwali, the chemical waste gets embedded in our lungs for the rest of our lives.

This waste accumulates and grows every year along with the routine intake of pollution that we are exposed to every day. This puts additional burden on our lungs, which are subjected to distress round the year.

What is the way forward?

The first step is to accept that there is a serious problem at hand. Air pollution is also caused due to dust, small fires and mismanaged road designs. We need to immediately put in place immediate and long-term measures to ensure pollution levels in the Capital are kept at zero and aren’t allowed to escalate.

The government needs to ensure clean fuel, recognise the growing dependency on diesel and also give farmers, who are carrying out stubble burning, a more viable option.

Pollution affects the unborn in the womb to an extent that it can hamper the devlopment and growth of a child. It is known to kill. It’s high time that we realise the dangers we are constantly exposed to.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 5:46:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/34-infant-smokers-created-every-minute/article19898253.ece

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