Worried by the increasing pollution levels in the city, the Post Graduate Institute of Medical and Education Research and Panjab University are for the first time conducting a joint study to check the air pollution in the city.
For the project, the team has installed equipment at rural and urban (residential, traffic) sites to check the fine particulate matter PM 2.5, an air pollutant that is considered dangerous for the health of general public.
“The aim of this study is to check the levels of the fine particulate matter PM 2.5 in the city and then come up with preventive steps,” says Dr Ravindra Khaiwal, Associate Professor, School of Public Health, PGI, who is leading the study.
He says that the study would provide the baseline measurement of PM 2.5 concentration in Chandigarh. “The study will also help us understand the association between daily variation in PM 2.5 levels and meteorological parameters as well,” he says.
The study, which was started, in November will continue till January. But doctors say that they will continue it for next year as well to measure the level of the air pollution each month. “Samples will be later sent to National Physical Laboratory in New Delhi for chemical testing,” says Dr Khaiwal.
The study will also provide the impact of agriculture biomass burning on PM 2.5 concentration in Chandigarh.
“This is going to be an important study and once we complete it, we would come up with a plan about the preventive measures on associated health risk of air pollution,” says another team member involved in the study.
Dr Suman Mor, Assistant Professor, Department of Environment Studies, Panjab University, says that the goal is also to generate the air policy index for the city and for that, they need support of the UT Administration and Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee.
The doctors say that the air pollution is an emerging “public health concern” because there is “enough evidence that the quality of air adversely affects human health due to the presence of various toxic pollutants”.
Dr Khaiwal says that the air pollution does not only cause the respiratory diseases but also lead to other diseases as well, including heart and lung.
He says that in a paper, “Air Pollution in India: Bridging the Gap between Science and Policy”, which was published in American Society of Civil Engineers last year of which Dr Khaiwal was a co-author, the writers even suggest that “air-quality networks need to be developed that can depict and forecast pollution levels with health advisories for the public and for pollution emergencies measures”.
The paper, which provided the data which was taken from a study published in Lancet about the premature deaths caused by the air pollution, says that 48.60 per cent of people died of ischemitic heart disease, 25.48 per cent die because of the heart stroke, 2.02 per cent of the people die of trachea bronchus and lung cancer while 6.40 per cent people die because of lower respirator functions and 17.32 per cent of deaths were recorded due to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
What steps can be taken for the future? Dr Khaiwal maintains that to put an end to the increasing pollution in the city, the administration needs to check the diesel autos in the city. “Several other steps can be taken by the administration if they want to control pollution in the city,” he says.
Dr D Behara, head, pulmonary medicine, PGI, says that the air pollution leads to several diseases among the general public. “These are well-known facts that air pollution leads to diseases such as lung function impairment,” he says. “Not only the outdoor pollution, through our studies earlier, it has been established that the indoor pollution also gives rise to diseases.”
He says the PGI receives patients with such diseases, but the hospital doesn’t have data on how many patients have developed these diseases because of the air pollution.
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