Delhi: Ill-effects of air pollution may be transgenerational, say experts

Air pollution is killing nearly eight lakh people annually in the South East Asian Region with India alone accounting for over 75 per cent of the casualties caused by cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer, according to WHO.

By: PTI | New Delhi | Updated: October 23, 2016 12:12 pm
pollution, air pollution, delhi air pollution, delhi air pollution transgenerational, world health organistion, WHO, air pollution WHO, indian express, delhi news, india news Adverse effects of air pollution, described as the world’s biggest environmental risk by WHO, may linger on in Delhi for generations to come, experts warn.

Adverse effects of air pollution, described as the world’s biggest environmental risk by WHO, may linger on in Delhi for generations to come, experts warn. New studies in this area, indicating that its impact may be ‘transgenerational’, have unsettled pollution experts and doctors here.

T K Joshi, Director, Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, told PTI that a study by the US-based National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has uncovered this fact.

“New research that has shaken all of us says that if a fetus is exposed to air pollution, she has change in her genes, and these changes are such that they don’t remain confined to her only.

“The impact is transgenerational. That means her children, her grand children will be affected. And you cannot undo a change in gene. If we don’t control this then we are creating lot of diseases to which we do not have any cure, like asthma, cancer, stroke,” Joshi said.

While the phenomenon holds true for people cutting across the world, it will be more so for residents of cities like Delhi, known for notoriously high levels of pollution.

It also turn on its head the conventional wisdom that pollution affects only certain vulnerable categories such as children, the elderly, people with respiratory diseases and expecting mothers.

Joshi rued that indoor air pollution was an area that has seen the “least amount” of work. Its potential impact on health is a riddle that needs to solved.

“That is what is sorely needed, to find its short and long term impact, serious or mild effects. Itching of eyes, sneezing are mild effects, but if you say cancer it’s very serious. So the riddle is yet to be solved,” Joshi said.

Echoing these views, Prof Mukesh Khare of IIT Delhi said the latest findings make indoor air pollution more significant, as people, especially expecting mothers, spend more time inside.

“Urban indoor air quality is an area that is not well-researched. The Central Pollution Control Board had put a draft of indoor air quality monitoring guidelines on its website in 2014 but there has no forward movement since. We need to have prescribed standards like for outdoor air,” he said.

Air pollution is killing nearly eight lakh people annually in the South East Asian Region with India alone accounting for over 75 per cent of the casualties caused by cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer, according to WHO.

Delhi also happens to be the 11th most polluted city in the world (based on data collected between 2008-13), according to the latest rankings released by the UN agency, while four other Indian cities – Gwalior (2), Allahabad (3), Patna (6) and Raipur (7) – figure in the top seven.

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First Published on: October 23, 2016 12:10 pm
  1. D
    Dr Harry
    Oct 24, 2016 at 10:19 am
    There is local cause of air pollution as much of the waste lies in mountain of filth and inevitably catches fire releasing particulate matter and toxic gases into the atmosphere. In addition, neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana make contribution to the highly dangerous pollution as a direct consequence of populist but destructive schemes followed by successive state and central governments. The populist policy of free electricity to farmers as bribery for votes means that they use pumped ground water to grow paddy in these two states. This crop apart from leading to alarming fall in the ground water-table, creating toxic heavy metal contamination, also is a major contributor to dangerous pollution. Because farmers in their hurry to grow the next crop are collecting the husk, instead millions of tones of husk is being burnt . This burning of husk stubble releases noxious gases that can lead to nasty lungs diseases like lung cancer, asthma and COPD, fetal defects and stunted growth in children. Its a catastrophe of mive proportion yet corrupt state regimes have not given guidance and isted farmers to dissuade them from this dangerous practice by offering them alternatives
    Reply