Air pollution continues to be a significant concern to public health and a tough problem confronted by our society. Recently Air Quality Index (AQI) has crossed the 400 mark, which is well above dangerous levels than the accepted norms.
Particulate suspended matter(PM<10), ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitric dioxides, carbon mono and dioxides all lead to airway inflammation, increased allergies and lung damage. Poor air quality is responsible for 3 million premature deaths worldwide per year.
“The effect that air pollution has on your lungs depends on the type and mix of pollutants in the air, the concentration of pollutants and how much of the pollutant gets down into your lungs. Especially, in present time due to extreme smog and pollution even non-smokers are at high risk of developing COPD and other life-threatening lung diseases.”Said Dr Rakesh Chawla, Senior Consultant, Respiratory Medicine, Saroj Super Specialty Hospital, New Delhi.
Air pollution has impact on most of the organs and systems of human body and is the major cause & aggravating factor for many respiratory diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, chronic bronchitis and even lung cancer. Apart from affecting the lungs, pollution has its ill effects on the brain, nervous system, digestive system, kidney and urinary system and on the heart.
“One can identify that the air quality is not safe through certain symptoms like burning of eyes, watering and redness of eyes, nasal congestion, running nose, frequent sneezing, headache, breathlessness, cough, chest heaviness, in order to avoid being exposed to it. Severity of symptoms depends upon level of pollution, exposure, and personal health status. Higher the concentrations of ambient pollutants higher are the risk of heart-attack, stroke and COPD.”
The best solution to manage the health effects is to avoid exposure, preserve the environment by planting more trees, which are natural air purifiers and avoid combustion, (stubble burning and vehicular pollution). Healthy habits like regular exercise, breathing exercises, healthy diet are general measures. Fresh fruits and vegetables provide anti-oxidants which protect lungs and other body organs from air pollutants. Plenty of water and juices help body to get rid of these toxins. Washing eyes and face, covering nose and mouth with mask reduces ill-effects.
Preserving the environment by adopting non- conventional energy sources like solar energy /wind energy/hydro-power in place of fossil fuel, coal, gasoline wood. Transforming to electric vehicles and phasing out diesel/ petrol vehicles and providing better public transport to reduce private vehicles are few steps that can help in curbing down the deteriorating air quality.
Measures to stop waste burning, better crop-waste-management as crop burning has led to haze and smog surge in NCR during this season every year. Town planning for better urbanization and preventing deforestation, as trees are the natural filters for air. Indoor plants also improve in-door pollution.
Children, the elderly, and people with underlying chronic disease, especially of the heart and lungs, are particularly at risk for respiratory problems. Healthy people who work or exercise outdoors also experience symptoms.
“On high pollution days, the best thing you can do to reduce your exposure to air pollution is to avoid main roads and busy streets when possible. Wearing face-mask (N95 mask or equivalent) might be a useful. Using faced mask, during out-door activity is personal protection for individuals from pollution. There are varieties of masks available like N-95, Cambridge mask, Vog-mask, Respro-mask and many; these have different filters and duration of protection.” He Added.