November 28, 2023, New Delhi: Both short and long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to a wide range of diseases, including stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, trachea, bronchus and lung cancers, aggravated asthma and lower respiratory infections. According to a World Bank report “Catalysing Clean Air in India” released in August 2021, the air pollution levels in India are among the highest in the world, posing a heavy threat to the country's health and economy. All of India’s 1.4 billion people are exposed to unhealthy levels of ambient PM 2.5 – the most harmful pollutant - emanating from multiple sources. These small particulates with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns, is about one-thirtieth the width of a human hair. Exposure to PM 2.5 can cause such deadly illnesses as lung cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Ambient and indoor air pollution is estimated to have caused 1.7 million premature deaths in India in 2019.

Latest estimates by the European Environment Agency (EEA) show that fine particulate matter (PM2.5) continues to cause the most substantial health impact. In a report released in October 2023, EEA states that air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk in Europe and a major cause of premature death and disease. Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable because their bodies, organs and immune systems are still developing. Air pollution damages health during childhood and increases the risk of diseases later in life, yet children can do little to protect themselves or influence air quality policies.

In India, Delhi and NCR cities continue to suffer from the highest levels of air pollution during the months of October and November. The AQI levels rose to 450 in late October and touched 1000 day after Diwali and have continued to be in the 300-600 range last week. With thousand plus posts and comments received from residents of Delhi and NCR on the subject of toxic air in the last 30 days especially around the health impact felt, LocalCircles through a new survey has strived to find out how residents of Delhi NCR are coping and what are the various health issue they are experiencing. The survey received over 9,000 responses from residents of Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurugram & Faridabad. 67% respondents were men while 33% respondents were women.

100% of Delhi NCR families surveyed indicated that they have had one or more members suffer due to air pollution

The air quality was expected to improve post Diwali but in several parts of Delhi NCR it is still in the AQI 300-600 range, including in several upmarket areas where vehicular traffic is heavy. The survey asked “Have you or members of your family in Delhi-NCR experienced/ are experiencing any ailment over the last 30 days due to air pollution?” Alarmingly, 100% of the 9740 Delhi NCR families who responded to the query indicated that they have had one or more members suffer due to pollution.

100% of Delhi NCR families surveyed indicated that they have had one or more members suffer due to air pollution

89% of Delhi NCR families surveyed either had or have someone suffering from sore throat and cough; 78% have someone who has suffered or is suffering from breathing difficulties

The survey next asked “What are all the ailments you or members of your family in Delhi NCR have experienced / are experiencing over the last 30 days due to air pollution?” Some among the 9,740 families surveyed indicated more than one ailment with 89% stating “sore throat and/ or cough”; 78% indicating “breathing difficulty/ asthma”; 67% indicated “runny nose and/or congestion”; 67% indicated “burning eyes”; 56% of respondents indicated “anxiety and/ or difficulty in concentrating”; 44% indicated “headache”; and 22% admitted to “difficulty in sleeping”. To sum up, 89% of Delhi NCR families surveyed either had or have someone suffering from sore throat and cough; 78% have someone who has suffered or is suffering from breathing difficulties.

89% of Delhi NCR families surveyed either had or have someone suffering from sore throat and cough; 78% have someone who has suffered or is suffering from breathing difficulties

Comparison of new survey results that concluded on November 23rd with that on October 31st shows that in 3 weeks, the percentage of Delhi NCR families with one or more individuals suffering from sore throat and/or cough has risen from 75% to 89% due to continuing high air pollution.

In 3 weeks percentage of Delhi NCR families with one or more individuals suffering from sore throat and/or cough has risen from 75% to 89%

Similarly, in the case of Delhi NCR families with one or more individuals suffering from congestion and/ or runny nose the percentage has risen from 38% to 67% in just three weeks.

In 3 weeks percentage of Delhi NCR families with one or more individuals suffering from congestion and/ or runny nose has risen from 38% to 67%

In the case of Delhi NCR families with one or more individuals suffering from breathing difficulty and/ or asthma, the percentage has more than doubled from 38% to 78% in three weeks, indicating that breathing problems are set to increase unless the air quality improves.

In 3 weeks percentage of Delhi NCR families with one or more individuals suffering from breathing difficulty and/ or asthma has risen from 38% to 78%

In summary, 100% of the families surveyed in Delhi NCR have indicated that one or more individuals in their household was either unwell earlier or is now due to the impact of air pollution, which remains at severe levels. The latest survey shows that 89% of the families surveyed have stated that one or more individuals in their family are unwell with “sore throat and/ or cough”; 78% indicated “breathing difficulty/ asthma”; 67% indicated “runny nose and/or congestion”; 67% indicated “burning eyes”; 56% of respondents indicated “anxiety and/ or difficulty in concentrating”; 44% indicated “headache”; and 22% admitted to “difficulty in sleeping”. In fact, the percentage of those unwell has risen sharply whether breathing difficulty/ asthma, or sore throat/ cough, or runny nose/ congestion. If the air pollution levels don’t come down sharply more people in these families are likely to fall sick and those suffering through the last 3 weeks may further experience deterioration in their health conditions. While people continue to experience short, medium and long term impact on their health due to toxic air, stubble burning in neighbouring states continues and so does manual road cleaning and garbage burning in Delhi and NCR cities with many wondering if those in administration are still on the job and addressing root causes.

Survey Demographics

The survey received over 9,000 responses from residents of Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurugram & Faridabad. 67% respondents were men while 33% respondents were women. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.

About LocalCircles

LocalCircles, India’s leading Community Social Media platform enables citizens and small businesses to escalate issues for policy and enforcement interventions and enables Government to make policies that are citizen and small business centric. LocalCircles is also India’s # 1 pollster on issues of governance, public and consumer interest. More about LocalCircles can be found on www.localcircles.com

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