Clearing the air: What we breath in

Clearing the air: What we breath in

Air pollution in Dimapur is increasing each year, surpassing the national permissible limit. The WHO says that around 7 million deaths in 2012 were caused by both indoor and outdoor pollutions.  Photo by Caisii Mao  

Air pollution on the rise in Dimapur

Morung Express News
Dimapur | February 2
The World Health Organization (WHO) terms air pollution the world’s largest single environmental health risk. In a data released in 2014, WHO estimates that “around 7 million people died – one in eight of global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure” in 2012. The data links 4.3 million deaths to indoor air pollution caused by households cooking over coal, wood and biomass stoves, while 3.7 million deaths to outdoor air pollution.
In Nagaland, there is no data in place to ascertain the intensity of air pollution impact on health. “The effect (of air pollution on health) is there, but it’s very difficult to measure,” admits Dr. Sao Tunyi, Epidemiologist at Directorate of Health & Family Welfare. “With our technology that we have, the data we have…We can only contemplate what we get from the national and international data.”
Nonetheless, it is indisputable that air pollution level in the state is increasing, particularly in Dimapur and Kohima. For Dimapur, according to the Nagaland Pollution Control Board (NPCB), concentration of Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) and Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) at both Dhobinullah and Bank Colony exceed the permissible limit.
According to National Ambient Air Quality Standards 2009, the annual average concentrations of RSPM should not exceed 60 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3); however, Dhobinullah recorded 158 and Bank Colony 111 in 2014, surpassing the 2013 record of 116 and 89 respectively. Meanwhile, in 2014, the annual average of SPM concentrations at Bank colony was 186 and 295 at Dhobinullah, crossing the national limit of 140 µg/m3. The SPM concentrations in the two locations were 156 and 254 respectively in 2013.
Exposure to RSPM causes cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and cancers, according to the WHO. It adds that 40% of the deaths from outdoor air pollution in 2012 were caused by ischaemic heart disease, 40% by stroke, 11% by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), 6% by lung cancer; and 3% – acute lower respiratory infections in children. In the indoor air pollution related deaths, 34% resulted from stroke, 26% from ischaemic heart disease, 22%  from COPD, 12% from acute lower respiratory infections in children, and 6% from lung cancer.
“Strokes are very common” among Nagas, says Dr. Sedevi Angami from Christian Institute of Health Sciences & Research, “but most of them are related to high blood pressure.” While acknowledging the need to be cautious of long term effect, he opines Nagaland is far better off compared to other cities in terms of pollution. “As of now nobody can say there is no danger, but we objectively have not seen a huge amount of surge of patients coming with respiratory problems and things like that,” he adds. Cardiovascular problem, he further attributes is mostly because of “Nagas becoming very lazy,” while pointing out their sedentary lifestyle.
However, going by the WHO report, Naga families are exposed to serious health threats since most homes still use firewood and coal for multiple purposes. “Since many of the kitchens are without proper chimneys, we inhale lots of smoke,” points out Dr. Tunyi. He underlines that proper chimney is very important in the villages “since our Naga society stay in the kitchen more than any other rooms.”
Apart from the emissions from motor vehicles – the major pollutant, Dr. Tunyi maintains that non black topped roads itself is a pollutant. “When we drive on dusty roads, there are pedestrians inhaling the dusts. These small particles when it gets to the lung, it raises various health conditions, especially of the lung,” he expresses.
Further, Dr. Tunyi acknowledges that the medical department also has a lot of work to do. “We need to assess the health impacts more scientifically. We don’t have much data to back up the effects, locally.”