Air pollution is not just a respiratory ailment but can also lead to life-threatening diseases like cancer, as stated by Dr. Piyush Ranjan, a doctor at AIIMS. He asserts that there is ample evidence to prove this fact, and the air-borne toxins are also responsible for ailments like heart attacks and brain strokes. The air quality in many parts of Delhi and India has become lethal, necessitating extreme caution.
The Risk of Stroke and Heart Attacks
Dr. Piyush Ranjan, Additional Professor at the Department of Medicine at AIIMS, explained that it is crucial to understand that air pollution doesn't just affect respiratory diseases but impacts various parts of the body. There is a direct link between pollution and diseases such as heart attacks, brain strokes, and coronary artery diseases like arthritis. We have scientific evidence that proves its association with various types of cancer as well. Dr. Ranjan shared these insights in a conversation with ANI.
Health experts believe that air pollution can lead to cancer in various ways. It can cause DNA damage, which is a primary cause of cancer. Essentially, DNA damage leads to the formation of cancer cells in the body. Additionally, air pollution increases inflammation and weakens the immune system, making it difficult for the body to eliminate these cancer cells.
Vehicular Emissions as the Major Culprit
Not only that, but it is also detrimental to the heart, brain, and even to the developing fetus in the womb. Speaking of Delhi, particulate matter PM 2.5, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides emitted from vehicles have turned the city's air into a toxic cocktail.
The Deadly Impact of Air Pollution
Air pollution has become a pressing global issue, significantly impacting public health. It not only affects the respiratory system but also poses severe risks to cardiovascular health. Researchers have found that long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to chronic respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and even cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified air pollution as a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths. According to their data, one in eight global deaths is caused by air pollution.
Sources of Air Pollution
Various sources contribute to air pollution, including industrial activities, vehicular emissions, construction sites, and the burning of fossil fuels. In densely populated cities like Delhi, vehicular emissions are a primary source of pollution. The high density of vehicles and their inefficient combustion engines release a significant amount of harmful pollutants into the atmosphere, causing a rapid deterioration of air quality.
The Health Hazards of Airborne Particulate Matter
Particulate matter, a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air, is one of the most hazardous components of air pollution. These particles can be either organic or inorganic and are categorized based on their size. The finer particles, particularly those with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or smaller (PM 2.5), pose the greatest risk to human health as they can penetrate deep into the respiratory system and even enter the bloodstream. Studies have shown that exposure to PM 2.5 can lead to a wide range of health problems, including respiratory issues, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
Effects on Respiratory Health
Air pollution, particularly the presence of fine particulate matter, has a significant impact on respiratory health. Long-term exposure to pollutants can lead to the development of chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and respiratory infections. These conditions can significantly reduce the quality of life and, in severe cases, lead to premature death. Children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution.
Cardiovascular Risks and Air Pollution
Studies have demonstrated a clear link between air pollution and cardiovascular diseases. The fine particulate matter present in polluted air can enter the bloodstream, causing inflammation and oxidative stress. This, in turn, can lead to the development of various cardiovascular conditions, including coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Additionally, air pollution can exacerbate existing heart conditions, leading to a higher risk of cardiovascular events and mortality.
Cancer Risks and Environmental Pollution
The association between air pollution and cancer has been a subject of extensive research. Several studies have highlighted the role of air pollutants in the development of various types of cancer, including lung cancer, bladder cancer, and breast cancer. The carcinogenic properties of certain pollutants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), have been well-documented. These substances can initiate genetic mutations and promote the growth of cancerous cells, leading to the development of malignant tumors.
Impact on Fetal Health
Pregnant women are at a higher risk of complications due to exposure to air pollution. The harmful pollutants present in the air can cross the placental barrier and affect the developing fetus, leading to various adverse outcomes. Studies have linked maternal exposure to air pollution with an increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and developmental abnormalities in infants. Moreover, exposure to air pollution during pregnancy can have long-term effects on the child's respiratory and cognitive health.
Mitigation Strategies and Policy Interventions
Given the severe health risks associated with air pollution, it is imperative for governments and policymakers to implement effective measures to mitigate its impact. Some of the key strategies that can be adopted include the promotion of clean energy sources, the implementation of stringent emission standards for industries and vehicles, the development of green spaces, and the adoption of sustainable urban planning practices. Additionally, public awareness campaigns and education programs can help in creating a sense of environmental responsibility and encouraging individuals to adopt eco-friendly practices in their daily lives.
Individual Actions for Air Pollution Prevention
While large-scale interventions are necessary, individuals can also contribute to reducing air pollution by making conscious choices in their daily lives. Simple measures such as using public transportation, carpooling, and cycling can help in reducing vehicular emissions. Additionally, energy conservation at home, proper waste management, and the use of eco-friendly products can contribute to a cleaner environment. By taking small steps and adopting a sustainable lifestyle, individuals can collectively make a significant impact in curbing air pollution and safeguarding public health.
Air pollution remains a critical global challenge that demands immediate attention and concerted efforts from all stakeholders. The detrimental effects of pollution on human health, particularly its association with respiratory diseases, cardiovascular ailments, and cancer, underscore the urgency of implementing robust measures to improve air quality. By prioritizing sustainable development, promoting environmental awareness, and implementing stringent regulations, we can pave the way for a healthier and more sustainable future for generations to come.