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Last Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Air Pollution

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Dr. Sumit WadhwaInternal Medicine Specialist • 19 Years Exp.DNB (General Medicine), Diploma In Tuberculosis & Chest Diseases (DTCD), MBBS


My dear friends. My name is Dr. Sumit Wadhwa. I am a consultant pulmonologist and internal medicine practicing in Gurgaon. Today we will be discussing an important topic of air pollution. Air pollution is common cause of disease and disability globally and health effects range from increased hospital emergency visits to hospital admissions to increased risk of premature death. An estimated 4.2 million deaths occur globally related to air pollution mainly caused by cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, lung cancer, increased risk of lower respiratory tract infections that was recorded by WHO in 2016. Air pollution worldwide air pollution also accounts for around 29% of the total deaths due to lung cancer, 17% of total deaths due to lower respiratory tract infections, 24% of total deaths due to stroke, 25% of total deaths due to cardiovascular diseases and 43% of deaths due to chronic lung conditions like COPD. Major pollutants that affect the public health include ground-level ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. Among this particulate matter especially size 2.5 microns and less can enter deep into your lungs and enter the circulation causing brain, lungs and heart impacts. How can we measure lung pa air pollution is by the air quality index.

Air quality index is a measure of the condition of your condition of the air relative to what is required for the basic human health. It can range from 0 sta stating a good air good health good air quality to more than 300 which is hazardous for human health. So, air quality index can be basically categorized into 6 subgroups, with each has its specific colour coding. Now, coming to it green colour codes for a good hair air quality and for the general public including all groups. Coming to the next is yellow, which is moderate air quality which is people with unusual people who are unusually sensitive are usually affected and are advised to reduce their heavy exertions during this period. Next comes the orange which is unhealthy air for sensitive groups which include people with asthma, people with chronic heart diseases, elderly people, children less than 14 years; these are basically advised to reduce their outdoor activities specially prolonged and heavy exertions outdoors. Normal general people are also advised to take caution. People with asthma are advised to keep their ready use inhalers handy, quick use inhalers handy.

People with heart disease specially those having symptoms of palpitations, unusual shortness of breath and fatigue are advised to consult with their physicians. Next comes is the category is red which is unhealthy air for all the populations. People who are usually belonging to the sensitive group are advised to take precautions, avoid outdoor activities and prolonged and heavy exertions. People with general population are also required to take care. Next comes severe unhealthy, which is the magenta group. The air quality index range is from 201 to 300. All groups are usually involved in this and people with sensitive groups are in fact advised to limit their outdoor activities, stay indoors and people from the general population are advised to take precautions and avoid reducing their prolonged and heavy exertion specially outdoors. Next comes the hazardous, the last is the hazardous group which is the maroon group and all people of groups are advised to avoid any outdoor activities.

People from the sensitive groups are also advised to stay most of the time indoors and also limit their activity levels. Health effects of air pollution affect the physical and the psychological well-being as well as can also involve organs and bodily functions can be harmed including the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, headache, fatigue, anxiety, irritation to throat, nose and eyes, involvement damage to the reproductive organs, involvement of liver, spleen and blood in long term exposure and damage to central nervous system. Now, the vulnerable populations for these effects include people with chronic heart disease such as coronary heart disease and heart failure, people with chronic lung conditions like COPD, asthma, older adults more than 65 years of age, children less than 14 years of age, outdoor workers, pregnant women and athletes who exercise outdoors vigorously.

Now, the major sources of important pollutants like ground level ozone which is formed mainly by mixture of volatile organic compounds with nitrates in presence of Sun's UV rays and it is a main component of air pollution especially during summers and late afternoon and evenings. The main sources of vehicular emission and agricultural and industrial equipment. Next comes the particulate matter which is a complex of soot, smog, tar, dust, nitrates and water and which is mainly formed by smoke fires and this specially the PM 2.5 enters deep into your lungs and circulation and causes major impacts on the respiratory system, lung, brain and heart. Coming to the measures we should take to reduce the effects of air pollution. We should stay alert, daily look for your local channels, the weather forecast and air quality indicators and plan your activities accordingly. Stay indoors specially when the air quality index is poor.

Use of air conditioning system specially on the recirculation mode, play indoors and avoid exposure avoid heavy prolonged exercises specially when the AQI is poor. It is mainly advised for people with chronic heart diseases and lung diseases to keep a good stock of medicines and people with asthma to have asthma action plan ready, to consult your physician in case of worsening of symptoms and cutting down on driving, use of carpooling, plant more green trees in and around your house which purify the air. Then, reduce use of crackers specially during festivals. Arrange for suitable methods of disposal of agricultural wastes. Use of good quality air pollution masks specially when outdoors with air quality is poor. It's desirable.


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