Delhi air pollution: The air quality of Delhi continues to remain in the ‘severe’ category. The air quality in Delhi continues to hover within the ‘severe’ range amid unfavourable meteorological conditions on Wednesday morning.

The main contributors to air pollution in Delhi include vehicular emissions, industrial activities, construction dust, burning of crop residues in neighboring states, and various other sources.

According to CPCB, AQI in Anand Vihar touched 430, in RK Puram at 417, in Punjabi Bagh at 423, and in Jahangirpuri at 428. As per media reports, 24 of the 35 city’s air quality monitors run by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) went dark and stopped throwing up data on Tuesday.

How does poor air quality affect your lungs?

Dr Nikhil Modi, Senior Consultant, Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals told Financial that air pollution is a silent and widespread threat that quietly harms our lung health.

“Tiny particles, gases, and toxic chemicals in the air infiltrate deep into our lungs, causing ongoing damage. This dangerous air pollution affects everyone, leading to long-term conditions like chronic lung disease (COPD), increasing the chances of getting lung cancer, and even reaching our bloodstream, where it puts our vital organs at risk. Our hearts can suffer as these small particles may block blood vessels, possibly leading to heart attacks. Our brains are also vulnerable, with pollution increasing the risk of strokes,” Dr. Modi said.

The harmful effects of pollution are far-reaching, not only causing immediate discomfort but also shortening our lifespans by as much as three and a half years, according to extensive research, he warned.

“This ongoing problem urgently requires our attention, highlighting the importance of taking steps to protect ourselves from this pervasive and life-threatening danger,” he added.

‘Respiratory system’s integrity can be threatened by pollutants’

Dr Rajesh Chawla, Senior consultant, pulmonology and critical care, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital told Financial that air pollution affects human health in a broad and complex way, affecting many different body systems and resulting in a wide range of negative outcomes.

“The respiratory system’s integrity can be threatened by pollutants such as particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and others that can cause respiratory conditions like bronchitis, asthma, and decreased lung function. The respiratory system’s vulnerability to these pollutants is underscored by the direct correlation between air pollution and the prevalence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and chronic lung disease,” Dr. Chawla said.

In India, a staggering 50 percent of COPD cases are attributed to pollution, with 29 percent of chronic lung cancer deaths stemming from airborne pollutants. Those already grappling with chronic lung diseases and asthma face exacerbated symptoms due to the presence of these pollutants, further intensifying their respiratory distress.

Furthermore, these pollutants can increase the risks of cardiovascular disorders such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes, he emphasised.

“They have been linked neurologically to a higher frequency of neurological diseases and cognitive impairment. Pollutants can also worsen skin disorders and allergies, which puts greater stress on the immune system. Extended exposure to air pollutants is also associated with a higher chance of developing a number of health problems, including cancer, problems with reproduction and development, and even early death,” he told Financial

In order to reduce these hazards, protective measures including mask use, improved indoor air quality, and policy advocacy are necessary. Policies that promote environmental preservation and cleaner air initiatives are also recommended, he added.

‘It has both short-term and long-term impacts on our health’

Air pollution can significantly impact lung health, leading to various respiratory problems and diseases. According to Dr. Azmat Karim, Consultant, Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Fortis Escorts, Okhla Road, New Delhi, it has both short-term and long-term impacts on our health.

“Its short term is generally allergy, cough, and breathing difficulties whereas its long-term impact can cause lung, heart, and neurological diseases. It can also lead to an increased risk of cancer. The long-term effects of pollution can be severely dangerous as it can lead to asthma, allergy, COPD, lung cancer, heart diseases, stroke, skin allergy, skin cancer, and overall poor quality of life,” Dr. Karim told Financial

Impaired lung immunity can lead to frequent lung infections along with other viral infections which can be indirectly linked to viral fever, Dr. Karim said.

“Chronic exposure to air pollution is associated with the development of respiratory diseases such as lung cancer, COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and other pulmonary conditions. Individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or bronchitis can experience worsened symptoms due to air pollution,” he said.

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