Air pollution caused by traffic, industry, and other factors is causing more than three million premature deaths each year, according to a study by The Lancet. Globally, this is more than the total number of deaths from malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.
Pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter from road traffic, and sulphur dioxide from burning fossil fuels, have been linked to reduced lung development in children, asthma, heart disease, and the onset of type 2 diabetes. Exposure to air pollution has also been found to affect the development of the fetus's brain in pregnant women. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the air we breathe is becoming dangerously polluted: nine out of ten people breathe polluted air.
According to researchers Uttara Balakrishnan and Magda Tsaneva of the American Institute for Research, people are largely unaware of the effects of air pollution on mental health. In a study based on data available for people in India, they found that air pollution has led to an increase in a variety of respiratory problems, as well as sleeplessness, fatigue and depression. The report states that it is difficult to accurately estimate the actual health costs of air pollution in developing countries like India. It is extremely important to keep this in mind when formulating environmental policies.
Researchers from Harvard and Emory University studied the effects of air pollution on the elderly living in America. They studied data from approximately 9 million people over the age of 64 who are enrolled in Medicare, the US government health insurance program. In this study, more than 1.5 million people showed signs of depression.
The cases of heart failure are increasing rapidly in India and China. Air pollution is a major cause of cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases in these countries. India is the second-leading country in the world in terms of deaths from heart failure. India and China alone account for 46.5 per cent of new cases worldwide. This was revealed in a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Air Pollution Affects Brain
Professor Dr Adarsh Tripathi, Head of the Department of Psychiatry at King George's Medical University in Lucknow, says that the pollution present in the air has a direct impact on our brains. Several studies have found that the risk of memory-related diseases increases many times when the level of particulate matter, especially PM2.5, in the air is high. Air pollution can also cause problems such as insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, and depression.
If the air pollution in your area is high, you should limit your time outdoors, plant such plants in your home that help in reducing pollution. If you want, you can also use an air purifier at home. Keep in mind, if there is high air pollution in your area and you have been feeling weak for a long time, are not interested in work, or are feeling depressed, then you should immediately see a psychiatrist.
Pollution Increases Depression and Stress
Professor and Psychiatrist Dr Om Prakash Singh from Government Medical College Kannauj says that whether it’s noise pollution or air pollution, they have adverse effects on the human brain. When the level of pollution in the air, especially particulate matter, increases, a person becomes irritable. They also get angrier. The biggest problem is when the level of pollution in the air increases, the person's physical activity decreases. Spending less time outside or spending more time in front of a phone or any other screen for a long time at home increases the stress level in the brain. This leads to problems such as sleeplessness or frequent sleep interruptions. At the same time, the tolerance level of the person also decreases and he starts getting angry very quickly. The risk of depression also increases if you breathe polluted air for a long time.
Impact On Heart
Dr Suman Bhandari, a cardiologist at the Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in Delhi and vice president of the Cardiologists' Society of India, says that air pollution has a direct impact on the heart. It also increases diabetes. He said that the number of heart patients has doubled since air pollution has increased. This includes patients with heart attacks.
Dr Partha Choudhury, a senior cardiologist at Kailash Hospital, says that in winter, with the increase in the level of air pollution in Delhi NCR, the number of heart patients also increases. On normal days, where about 35 heart patients were coming daily, the number of these patients has increased to 45-50 in the past few days. The special thing is that most of them are new patients. The cases of heart attack have also increased rapidly.
According to the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health report, about 1.67 million deaths occurred in India due to air pollution in 2019, which was 17.8 per cent of all deaths in the country that year. About 91 per cent of the world’s population lives in places where the air quality index is higher than the limit set by the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
If the amount of PM 2.5 in the body increases, inflammation occurs in many organs of the body. Dr Raghav Bansal, Associate Professor at UN Mehta Institute of Cardiology and Research Center, says that many studies have shown that the risk of heart disease increases with the increase of PM 2.5 in the air. In fact, these pollutants directly reach the blood through your breath, causing inflammation in many organs of the body. It also affects the arteries of the heart. This increases the risk of heart disease. If someone is already a heart patient, then the difficulty can increase for him and he may have to be admitted to the hospital due to the high amount of PM 2.5 in the body.
Effect Of Air Pollution On Children's Respiratory System
Dr Bandana Mishra, HOD of Pulmonology at Sanar International Hospital in Gurugram, explained that as the level of air pollution increases, people start to suffer from various types of diseases. The problem is more visible in Delhi-NCR. The worst effect of this pollution is on children. Children under the age of 15 have to face major problems. In the last week, 45-50 patients with respiratory problems have been visiting my Outpatient Department (OPD) daily, she said. Of these, about half are children. Normally, 30-35 patients used to visit daily, of which only 4-5 were children. Air pollution is affecting the children's respiratory tract. It can be understood that the damage that happens to children’s health is similar to the effect on the airways of a smoker who smokes 30-35 cigarettes daily. Their respiratory tract is constricting, which affects their lungs. They are at an increased risk of diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia. The effect of pollution on the brain and heart of children further impacts their mental and physical development.
A study by scientists from India and the United States has found that the lives of unborn or born children are at risk due to air pollution. The death rate of such children has increased due to pollution. Scientists say that it is essential to take immediate steps to control air pollution to curb the death rate of newborn children in India. The study found that the impact of increasing air pollution on children is different based on gender.
According to a report published in the research journal www.sciencedirect.com, increasing PM 2.5 particles in the air have become a cause for concern worldwide. Scientists have studied the impact of increasing PM 2.5 levels in the air on the health of unborn or recently born children in India. In this study, scientists found that PM 2.5 increases infant mortality rate, mainly neonatal mortality rate. With every 10 micrograms per cubic metre increase in PM 2.5 level in the air, the mortality rate in newborn children increases. The study found that the mortality rate was higher in girls than in newborn boys due to the increase in PM 2.5 in the air.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in ten children (under the age of five) dies due to air pollution. According to a report published in 2022, 361,000 children died from respiratory diseases caused by air pollution in 2019. 93 per cent of the world's children under the age of 15, nearly 180 million, breathe in poisonous air every day. This affects their physical and mental development. In 2019, 4.2 million people died prematurely due to air pollution worldwide. If the effects of outdoor and domestic pollution are combined, there were 6.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2019. Of these, 89 per cent of deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. The highest number was in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region. Pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats to health. 99 per cent of the world's population lives in places where air quality is below standards. If the level of air pollution is reduced, the burden of heart attack, heart disease, lung infection, cancer, asthma, and respiratory diseases can be reduced.
Impact On Girls' Height
Crop and biomass burning have a very dangerous impact on the health of girls, leading to a decrease in their height. This study was conducted by scientists Sagnik Dey of IIT Delhi and Praachi Singh of Indian Statistical Center.
The report found that biomass burning has a negative impact on girls in their early stages of development. Girls who are more exposed to biomass burning have a decrease in height of 1.07 cm or 0.7 per cent. The report also found that babies who are more exposed to biomass burning during pregnancy have a decrease in height of 1.70 cm (1.13 per cent).
The report also found that teenagers with better financial status are taller. The mother's educational level was also found to be related to height.
The report states that crop burning is the main cause of biomass burning in Punjab, while forest fires are the main cause in Assam. Crop burning is a common practice in Punjab during October and November, and also in April and May due to the wheat crop.
The report concludes that North India is the most affected region by biomass burning. The states of Punjab, Haryana, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh, Tripura and Nagaland are the most affected by this problem.
Biomass burning is a major source of pollution. It emits carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides, and PM particles. These have a harmful effect on the human body. It increases the risk of cardiac problems, respiratory diseases, etc. In India, the major causes of air pollution are transportation, coal-based power plants, agricultural burning, forest fires, industrial pollution, etc. Agricultural burning is more common in many states of North India. Biomass burning is also present in large quantities in many states of the country.
Risk For Liver Increased As Well
Fatty liver disease (MAFLD) has become a major health threat worldwide. In India, the number of fatty liver patients has also increased rapidly in recent years. A recent study found that in addition to irregular eating and poor lifestyle, increasing air pollution is also rapidly increasing the incidence of fatty liver disease. Scientists have claimed in a report published in the Journal of Hepatology, the official journal of the European Association for the Study of the Liver, that air pollution has promoted the problem of fatty liver.
The number of fatty liver patients in the world has been steadily increasing since the 1980s, reaching a quarter of the global population today. It has increased rapidly in Asia between 2012 and 2017, with an increase of about 40 per cent in patients during this period. The increasing liver disease has also seen an increase in end-stage liver diseases such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer, liver transplantation, and liver-related death.
Impact Of Pollution On Kidneys
A new research report has found that severe levels of pollution are very harmful to kidney patients. According to the report, air pollution can have a harmful cardiovascular effect in people with kidney disease. The report states that air pollution is a major factor in heart and kidney complications, but the mechanism linking it to cardiorenal events is not well understood. A team of researchers at Case Western Reserve University in the United States tried to assess whether galectin-3 levels (myocardial fibrosis) are associated with the risk of air pollution in patients with and without chronic kidney disease and hypertension. Air pollution has a direct relationship with myocardial fibrosis in people with CKD. Myocardial fibrosis occurs when cells called fibroblasts in the heart begin to produce collagen scar tissue. This can lead to heart failure and even death. Tariq said that reducing air pollution would benefit CKD patients, as it would reduce their risk of heart disease.
Countless Diseases Due To Air Pollution
Air pollution causes a significant number of diseases and deaths in India. According to a report by the National Health Account Data, air pollution-related diseases accounted for about 11.5 per cent of all diseases in India in 2019. The cost of treating these diseases was about USD 11.9 billion. A report published in the Medical Journal Lancet estimated that about 10.6 million people died due to air pollution in India in 2019.
Mixture Of Toxic Elements Makes Pollution Dangerous
Pallava Purohit, a senior research scholar at the Pollution Management Research Group of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, told Jagran Prime that the most harmful inorganic aerosols in the atmosphere are formed by a combination of sulfuric acid and nitrogen oxides emitted from power plants, industries, and traffic, and ammonia produced by agricultural activities. This cocktail is responsible for 23 per cent of pollution.
Pollution: A Nationwide Predicament
According to Vivek Chattopadhyay of CSE, pollution affects your productivity because if you are not healthy, you will not be able to perform well in the workplace. Vivek says that if the government takes the right steps to reduce air pollution and can control it, then the damage to the GDP can be significantly reduced.
What Are Particulate Matters?
Particulate Matter (PM) or particle pollution is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets present in the environment. The particles present in the air are so small that you cannot see them with the naked eye. Some particles are so small that they can only be detected using an electron microscope. Particle pollution includes PM 2.5 and PM 10, which are very dangerous. Particulate matter comes in various sizes and can be due to both human and natural sources. The sources can be primary and secondary. Primary sources include automobile emissions, dust, and cooking smoke. Secondary sources could be complex reactions of chemicals like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. In addition, other sources of air pollution include forest fires, wood stoves, industrial smoke, and dust generated from construction works. These particles go into your lungs, which can cause bouts of cough and asthma. It becomes a risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and many other serious diseases.
Dr Narendra Saini, Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the Delhi Medical Council, says that since air pollution has increased, the number of patients with respiratory diseases has increased rapidly. In patients coming suddenly for treatment, the number of patients with respiratory diseases, serious infections in the lungs, sore throat, and infections in the respiratory system has increased by more than 50 per cent. Dr. Prashant Mathur, Director of the National Cancer Registry Program ICMR Bangalore, says that pollution is also playing a big role in this. Pollution not only has polluted air but also the surrounding smoking environment, factory, and smoke. In addition, indoor pollution includes the use of wood-kerosene, chemicals coming out of the kitchen.
(Note: This story has been translated by Ankit Kumar for Jagran English.)