Thursday, May 3, 2018

Controlling air pollution is an urgent global concern

Air pollution has become a much-discussed topic these days. Lot is being written about and spoken about the rising pollution levels in the country and its impact on health. Air pollution has been recognized as a critical risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in adults, accounting for 24% of all deaths due to heart disease, 25% from stroke, 43% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and 29% because of lung cancer.

New data from WHO has shown that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants reiterating the need for urgent action to check the dangerously high levels of pollution.

What should be of great concern to us all is that 14 cities in India, along with our national capital Delhi, are among the 20 most polluted cities in the world with regard to PM2.5 levels in 2016. For PM10 levels also, 13 Indian cities are included among the 20 most-polluted cities of the world in 2016.

The other major findings include:

·         Globally, around 7 million deaths occur annually due to exposure to ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution. South-East Asia Region accounts for 2.4 million of these 7 million premature deaths
·         As per WHO data, more than 40% of people globally still lack access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes, the main source of household air pollution.
·         About 4.2 million deaths occurred due to ambient air pollution alone in 2016. About 1.3 million of these deaths were reported from SEAR.
·         Household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies resulted in around 3.8 million deaths in 2016. Of these, 1.5 million deaths occurred in SEAR.
·         More than 90% of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, followed by low- and middle-income countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Americas.
·         The highest ambient air pollution levels are in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and in South-East Asia, with annual mean levels often exceeding more than 5 times WHO limits, followed by low and middle-income cities in Africa and the Western Pacific.
·         Africa and some of the Western Pacific region lack air pollution data. Europe has the highest number of places reporting data.
·         Ambient air pollution levels are lowest in high-income countries, particularly in Europe, the Americas and the Western Pacific.

“Every cloud has a silver lining”. The report acknowledges the positive progress in the efforts to reduce air pollution from particulate matter. Specifically, the report makes note of India’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Scheme, which has provided some 37 million women living below the poverty line with free LPG connections to support them to switch to clean household energy use in the last two years. The target is to reach 80 million households by 2020.

These findings re-emphasize the need for urgent action to address this public health problem. 

What is important here is to understand that the government does not alone bear the responsibility to prevent and control pollution. We all have a responsibility to protect our environment. 

Much of existing pollution is man-made, so we also must contribute and actively participate in the efforts to control pollution.

(Source: WHO)

Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
Vice President CMAAO
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Immediate Past National President IMA

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