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Pollution level fall relative in Delhi, health still at risk: Doctors


Press Trust of India New Delhi
Delhi's pollution level may have witnessed a fall post this Diwali, but doctors said the reduction is "only relative" and the pollutants still pose "serious health hazards".
Doctors at various hospitals emphasised the need to take precautions, especially those who are susceptible to pulmonary ailments like asthma, bronchitis or those having eye-related problems.
According to Dr Arvind Kumar, lung surgeon at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital here, there has only been a "relative fall" in the pollution level but it is still a serious hazard for health.
"The intake of every 22 micrograms per cubic metre of polluted air is equivalent to smoking a cigarette. So whether the PM2.5 level is 700 or 300 units, the impact is still as bad. People should not get complacent that the air quality has improved, as the improvement is not absolute but only relative," he told PTI.
Kumar said people flouted norms and restrictions imposed on bursting of crackers at several places in Delhi, and at no place the AQI stood less than 300.
"I would say, pollution level has come down with concomitant good effects on health when the level reaches 60 or even 100. But has it fallen to that level anywhere? Telling that pollution had come down by a certain percentage is slipping into sense of complacency," he said.
A hazy cocktail of emissions from fireworks, stubble burning and vehicles hung over the national capital a day after Diwali on Monday when the air quality index (AQI) plummeted to "very poor", the worst-recorded level this season.
The city's AQI stood at 368, a huge improvement over the last year when it touched as high as 642, according to data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Delhi Pollution Control Authority (DPCC).
AQI at 4 pm on Diwali day on Sunday stood at 337.
Kumar also said it was too early to assess the impact of "relative increase in pollution" and one will have to wait for a few days.
Doctors at other hospitals also said the impact of the polluted air is "still bad" but it "would be to early to say that there has been an increase in fresh cases".
"Because of the bad air quality, patients who already suffer from asthma, bronchitis or are allergic to dust have been turning up at the hospital. So there are hardly any fresh cases. A rise in the cases of difficulty in breathing, runny nose, sore throat and chest infections and aggravated asthma are usually seen post Diwali celebrations," a senior doctor from the department of respiratory medicine at the RML Hospital said.
Besides, children and elderly people facing breathing trouble also have been visiting the OPD, he said.
Dr Hasnain Reza, head of Accident and Emergency at Fortis hospital here, said his department sees over 100 people who have suffered injuries from fire or crackers or something related to Diwali festivities.
"Yesterday and today, we have have treated elderly people for breathing difficulties. These occur because of the overall air pollutants and the chemicals in the crackers. The effect of the crackers in terms of pollutants remains for a few days. Eye injuries include itching or loss of vision," he said.
"Overall injuries have not declined. The air in Delhi-NCR was in the very poor category which was recorded at the Lodhi observatory today. This contributed to the overall cases we saw," he said.
Dr Gyan Bharti, Pulmonologist, Columbia Asia Hospital in Ghaziabad, said, "Every now and then we get patients but post Diwali the footfall increased by 15-30 percent".
"The incessant burning of crackers affects health due to rising air pollution which increases asthma and allergic reactions. The problem also aggravates due to burning of agricultural residues in nearby states, emissions from motor vehicles and industrial pollution, and construction activities and roadside dust," he said.
Dr K K Aggarwal, cardiologist and former president of the Indian Medical Association, said the harmful effects of air pollution are well-recognised.
"Short-term particulate exposure is associated with acute coronary events (heart attack) in patients with underlying coronary artery disease. PM1, PM2.5 and PM10 are risk factors of all-cause, cardiovascular, stroke, respiratory, and COPD mortality. Children and older adults, including those with existing health problems such as asthma or heart ailments, are at high risk," he said.
Doctors have asked people to take precautions and avoid early morning and late evening walks as concentration of pollutants is highest during this period.
Schools should avoid outdoor assemblies, sports activities and other physical activities in the early morning hours, they said.

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First Published: Oct 28 2019 | 9:10 PM IST

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