Delhi-AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria, has emphasized that acute effects of air pollution are mostly pointed out but the long term or chronic effects also need to be emphasized. He has pointed out that there is a medical emergency in Delhi as the level of air quality has crossed the severe range.
Addressing the media in AIIMS-Delhi on November 2, 2019, Dr Guleria, who is a noted pulmonologist and the head of the Department of Pulmonology and Sleep Disorders, Delhi-AIIMS, said if children continue to live in such toxic air enviornment for years, the impact of air pollution on health of young children would be severe. This needs to be discussed, he said.
Calling air pollution a silent killer, Dr Guleria said that there is data which suggests that such children have retarded lungs and they have higher chances of developing respiratory diseases when they become older. Air pollution is impacting children, elders and people with respiratory, cardiac problems and also to some extent even healthy people.
“Air pollution causes inflammation in the lungs, cough and wheezing. Particulate matter 2.5 and ultra fine particles enter lungs, blood and cause swelling of arteries. This can lead to heart attacks, coronary artery diseases and stroke,” said Dr Guleria.
Referring to a research paper of European Society, Dr Guleria said that like high cholesterol and smoking are the risk factors for heart diseases, the existing air pollution is a risk factor for heart diseases. It is like smoking every day.
Dr Guleria informed that there has been a 20% increase in the number of patients with respiratory and heart diseases in AIIMS. “We recently conducted a study with ICMR that revealed that there has been a rise of patients with respiratory problems in Delhi hospitals after rise of air pollution,” explained Dr Guleria.
“We are also conducting a multi centric study with United Kingdom of impact of air pollution on asthmatic children, pregnant women and the newborn. Acute exposure to air pollution brings coughing, breathlessness, chest congestion to a normal person; chances of attacks are higher for those who have asthma, people with heart diseases may have heart attacks due to swelling in blood arteries,” said Dr Guleria. Dr Guleria pointed out that there is also data which suggests that air pollution also causes lung cancer but this data requires more study.
He asserted that there is need for concrete and collective efforts to address the problem of air pollution.