King Edward Memorial Hospital’s Dr Amita Athavale, professor and head, Department of Chest Medicine and Environment Pollution Research Centre (EPRC), says she treated one patient for interstitial lung disease in two months 25 years ago, but “in 2015, we get at least two patients every day for interstitial lung diseases”.
According to the Ministry of Health and Family Affairs, more than 35,000 people had died due to acute respiratory infections in India in over nine years. More than 2.6 crore cases were reported every year during the period.
“While the link between asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) with pollution have long been known, recent intriguing evidence shows there is a link between tuberculosis and both indoor and outdoor pollution. The potential impact of environmental pollution in India’s ‘bursting at the seams’, overcrowded metropolises on this country’s respiratory health is frightening to contemplate,” says Dr Zarir Udwadia, consultant chest physician at the Hinduja Hospital, Breach Candy Hospital and Parsee General Hospital.
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The cost related to dealing with air pollution-related diseases is only set to go up, especially for the city’s poor, say scientists.
The total monetary burden, including personal burden, government expenditure and societal cost, is estimated at Rs 4,522.96 million for a 50-µg/m3 increase in PM(10), and Rs 8,723.59 million for a similar increase in NO2, found a study by researchers Archana Patankar and Pushpa Trivedi on the monetary burden of health impacts of air pollution in Mumbai.
Doctors’ advice to the people range from ‘leave the environment where you face high pollution’ to ‘wear a mask’. “My simple advice to the people is to be cautious. If dust is irritating them, do not go into that environment and please use a face mask. Air pollution has certainly increased and if you live near a construction site or your house is being painted, you are more at risk. People with respiratory disorders like asthma and COPD should be extra cautious while living in a polluted city like Mumbai,” says JJ Hospital’s chest department head Dr N N Ramraje.