Delhi-NCR engulfed in dense fog on a cold morning. (Anindya Chattopadhyay/BCCL Delhi)

Representational image

(Anindya Chattopadhyay/BCCL Delhi)

In the past decade, Delhi has become synonymous with air pollution, with its AQI (air quality index) reaching new lows year after year. It was again the most polluted city in India in 2022, with PM 2.5 levels more than double the safe limit, according to an analysis of Central Pollution Control Board data. And undoubtedly, such severe pollution levels take a huge toll on the health of the residents.

This week was no better! After remaining 'severe' for the past two days, Delhi's AQI improved the slightest bit today. And yet, it stood at 335 this afternoon, putting it in the 'very poor' category. The PM2.5 and PM10 levels stood at a hazardous 165 and 275 units, according to SAFAR.

For context, an AQI between 0 and 50 is considered "good"; 51 to 100 is "satisfactory", 101 to 200 is "moderate", 201 to 300 "poor", 301 to 400 "very poor", and 401 to 500 "severe".

With such hazardous air quality, the residents' health takes a downturn. And every time the national capital records a major dip in its air quality, hospitals in the city see an influx of patients from various age groups with respiratory complaints.

Air pollution has been associated with a broad spectrum of acute and chronic illnesses, such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cardiovascular diseases. But recent disease prognosis has doctors wondering if air pollution might be responsible for seemingly innocuous illnesses like cold and cough lasting longer.

Seasonal fever and cold, which would take 3-5 days to cure, are now taking longer to resolve despite medication. And health experts fear that the rising pollution is responsible.

As per accounts, the number of patients visiting hospitals in Gautam Budh Nagar has increased by about 15-20%, with most of them experiencing breathing difficulties amidst the deteriorating air quality.

According to Dr Chandan Soni, Assistant Chief Medical Officer, the increasing pollution and cold are proving to be particularly fatal for children below ten years and people above fifty years of age.

The groups most affected are those who need to step out for work during the morning and evening hours, those with low immunity, and those who are already suffering from other diseases.

However, things are only about to get worse if the air pollution and cold conditions prevail over Delhi, with a significant spike in respiratory diseases.

While the AQI is expected to improve a bit over the next three days, mercury is likely to fall further in the national capital in the duration.

Prolonged exposure to poor air quality may lead to respiratory illnesses. Keeping your windows closed is recommended. And given the AQI being in the very poor category, sensitive groups are advised against indulging in outdoor physical activities, while asthmatics need to keep their medicines handy. Everyone else must ensure to avoid prolonged or heavy exertion and stop physical activities if they experience unusual coughing, chest discomfort, wheezing, breathing difficulty, or fatigue.

(With inputs from IANS)

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