Delhi

‘Delhiites dying one breath at a time’

(Left) Scans showing the lungs of a Delhi-based man in the 1990s. (Centre and right) The lungs of two Capital-based women in 2016. Both women were non-smokers.  

What is the constantly high air pollution levels in the Capital doing to your health? More specifically your lungs? If images from the medical records of patients in the city are any indication, the damage is extensive and very much real.

‘State of emergency’

Sharing the images with The Hindu, Prof. Arvind Kumar, Chairman, Centre for Chest Surgery and Lung Transplantation, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said: “These images say it all.”

“We are currently in a state of emergency and our lungs are only indicative of the poison that we are subjecting our bodies to. In the 90’s, doctors would see pink lungs, which is an indication of relatively clean and healthy respiratory system. We would see carbon and other toxic deposits only among smokers. Sadly the trend has changed for the worst. Now we are seeing a sharp rise in lung cancer among women who are non-smokers and also don’t have partners who smoke,” explained the doctor.

Death by breath: A couple with face masks at Raisina Road on Tuesday. The EPCA has directed Delhi-NCR authorities to draw up a time-bound action plan to clean up the air of pollution hotspots — Anand Vihar, Bhiwadi, Noida and Ghaziabad — within a week.

Death by breath: A couple with face masks at Raisina Road on Tuesday. The EPCA has directed Delhi-NCR authorities to draw up a time-bound action plan to clean up the air of pollution hotspots — Anand Vihar, Bhiwadi, Noida and Ghaziabad — within a week.  

 

But the absolute worst, Dr. Kumar said, is what he has been seeing recently. “We are now seeing teenaged patients who have lungs with black spots, which is an indication of toxic deposits due to air pollution. This is definitely a bad indicator. Children and the elderly are the worst hit by pollution.” He added that these black deposits, which settle on the surface of lungs, are toxics substances and gases which can cause extensive and irreversible damage to all organs of the body. Among children, they can even cause developmental issues.

Gas chamber

“We are all living and breathing in a gas chamber. Delhiites are gasping for breath, coughing relentlessly, fighting deadly pneumonia and finding themselves in the emergency departments of hospitals whereas children here are on nebulizers. We takes approximately 25,000 breaths a day on average and each breath of this polluted air is slowly killing us,” he says.

Environment activists, medical research journals and other sources have long been warning against the rising health and economic crisis related to air pollution. As per the government’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data, at any given time, Delhi’s air is 7 to 12 times more polluted than the permissible limits set by World Health Organisation.

Exposure to smoke

“These days there is a sharp rise in the number of patients coming in with throat problems, nasal allergies and chest infections because they are exposed to high levels of smoke. We have patients who have never had asthma but are now experiencing similar symptoms like wheezing and breathlessness. Asthma patients are experiencing aggravation of their symptoms. There is also a sharp rise in viral fever, a direct effect of smoke causing inflammation of the lining of our wind pipe and making us vulnerable to infection,” said Dr. Anil Bansal of the Delhi Medical Association.


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Printable version | Oct 14, 2021 4:44:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/delhiites-dying-one-breath-at-a-time/article19914725.ece

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