Tourists in Delhi wearing anti-pollution masks. PTI Photo
New Delhi, November 19 (IANS) If you live in the Delhi-NCR region, do not smoke, have no history of any respiratory illness and love to jog daily in the morning without worrying about your lung health, take this seriously as air pollution in your neighbourhood is equal to smoking 15-20 cigarettes a day on average, health experts warned on Tuesday.
According to them, air pollution levels in Delhi-NCR can put a healthy human being to a huge risk for pulmonary health.
The air pollution in the national capital was so toxic after Diwali that the Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) had to declare a public health emergency in the Delhi-NCR and advised people, especially children and the aged, to limit their exposure to the environment.
"Air pollution in Delhi-NCR is no longer just a health risk. It has become a hazard. Everyone in Delhi is affected by pollution. It doesn't matter whether you are smoking or not, as everybody is equivalently smoking 15 to 20 cigarettes on a daily basis.
"If this continues, then there is a very high chance of new borns with respiratory problems," Dr Rajesh Chawla, Senior Consultant Respiratory Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi told IANS.
The northern Indian states have been witnessing severe air pollution since last month, with the air quality even touching the 'emergency' mark.
According to Dr Swapnil Mehta, consultant (pulmonology), Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital in Mumbai any air quality index (AQI) above 100 is harmful.
"With Delhi's AQI of 200-300, it is virtually hazardous for everyone. Even normal healthy lungs are becoming diseased, turning into reactive airways causing permanent damage. It makes lungs more susceptible for viral and bacterial infections in future and, thus, decresing life expectancy with increasing morbidity and mortality. Also, it predisposes to cardiac illness similar to smoking," lamented Dr Mehta.
The Delhi government has urged the Centre numerous times to take steps to deal with the air pollution as it has blamed the stubble burning in the neighbouring states for the deteriorating air quality here.
However, various stakeholders have just been passing the buck, waiting for the wind to clear the air as winter sets in.
"People who do not smoke or have known respiratory diseases can still be at risk. In the absence of smoking, air pollution might provide the necessary triggers to complete the development of diseases. Factors such as smoking, second-hand smoke (SHS) and pollution together can worsen your pulmonary health," said Dr Desh Deepak, Senior Chest Physician, RML Hospital.
Dr Gyanendra Agrawal, Associate Director, Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Jaypee Hospital in Noida said that breathing in such polluted air puts even a healthy person more at the risk of pneumonia.