In a list of ten threats to global health in 2019, the World Health Organisation features air pollution as the greatest environmental risk to health claiming that ‘nine out of ten people breathe polluted air every day’.
Among the ten issues that needed ‘attention from WHO and health partners in 2019’, Air pollution and climate change topped the list.
The report states that the primary cause of air pollution (burning fossil fuels) is also a major contributor to climate change, which impacts people’s health in different ways.
Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
“The health effects of air pollution are serious – one third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution.
This is having an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco, and much higher than, say, the effects of eating too much salt,” read a WHO report titled ‘How air pollution is destroying our health.’
Researcher, Innovator and Future Planning Expert, Dr Anupam Saraph, quotes that if Pune does not put a ceiling on the petrol and diesel sold in the district, it will become worse than Delhi.
“The planners have to move to shrink, not expand the city. We do not need more transportation, we need less need to travel.
More transportation corridors are a failure of planning. I think it is time to start afresh.
All studies, reports and campaigns are entrenched in the model of promoting alternative modes of transportation when they should be focused on reducing transportation.
Here is my take on individual action to reduce carbon to reverse climate change. Start with baby steps. Ensure you can persist on what you pledge to do.
Here Are Some Simple Ideas:
- Carry your own drinking water, give up bottled commercial water.
- Entertain yourself with conversations in parks, playgrounds not malls
- Reduce your shopping budget every day till you have weeks of zero spend
- walk to every destination you can, travel infrequently to destinations you can’t walk to.
Some More Challenging Ideas:
- Adopt trees on your street, invite your neighbours to join in protecting them
- Plant more trees in your neighbourhood till there is no space for any more
- Find the nullahs, river, pond or well in your neighbourhood and work with the authorities to free it from exploitation, encroachment and pollution
- Refuse to invest in real estate, particularly that which converts forests, farms, mountains or water bodies into concrete
- Refuse to support projects that have a high carbon footprint like roads, real estate, transportation
|In developing nations like India, the main reasons for Air Pollution are essentially the neglect of Climate Change related issues:|
Speaking on the increasing health hazards pertaining to increasing air pollution in the city, Dr Mahavir Modi, Pulmonologist quotes, “Air pollution both indoors and outdoors is continuously increasing for variety of reasons.
Number of vehicles, industrial waste, fumes and toxins are on the constant rise and affect our health on a daily basis.
Toxic gases are emitted which include. Carbon dioxide, Nitrogen dioxide and Sulphur dioxide among others. They cause irritation of eyes, throat irritation, drying and early ageing of skin. They can affect all healthy individuals.
“Severe side effects are seen in the patients those who are already suffering from asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). These increasing levels of pollutants cause exacerbations of COPD and worsening of the lung function.
Smokers are at added risk of developing COPD as diesel exhaust along with fog in the air are inhaled and reside deep in the lung alveoli.
“They can cause lung fibrosis and irreversible lung damage. They are also attributable to cause lung cancer. COPD is rising daily in our country and India stands first when it comes to non-smoking COPD. Exposure to biomass fuels is important reason in rural India.”
Speaking about the symptoms, Dr. Modi adds, “The early symptoms are dry, irritating cough which persists for long. Symptoms of COPD are quite long and include cough with phlegm on most of the days for 2-3 months for 2-3 years and they should warn the individual to get a lung function test done.
Breathlessness, greyish or blackish sputum production are other symptoms to look for.”
“Solutions for this growing problem are many, but needs great vigilance in execution.
- We must have laws to control pollution and decrease vehicle numbers. PUC for vehicles must be more stringent. Use car pool whenever possible. Rely more on more efficient public transport system and it should be made available.
- Protect your eyes with shades and skin with sunscreen lotion. Use scarf and mask in polluted areas. Have morning walks in green areas and drink plenty of water.
- It should be a good practice of washing the used clothes on daily basis and they have been shown to carry loads of pollutants on these clothes.
- Indoor pollution with incense sticks are high source of indoor pollutants and should be avoided especially by asthmatics.
- Have rooms with plenty of sunlight and cross ventilation. Oil based paints, pesticides, molds on the walls, dampness in the rooms add a lot to the indoor pollution and should always be sought first before blaming the outdoor pollution.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can partially reverse these changes. Drinking 8 glasses of water everyday, plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables in diet, daily exercise and deep breathing techniques can definitely help your body cope up with these daily pollution challenges.”
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