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WHO asks Pune institutes to find out how air pollutants affect health

Climate change is poised to worsen air quality globally.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: April 1, 2015 2:52:16 am

A weather forecast and a health forecast along with it could be a reality soon. In a bid to quantify and map the toxicity of air pollutants and their impact on the health of individuals, at least three institutions have joined hands and the experts involved hope to generate enough information to influence policy makers.

The study commissioned for the first time by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Meteorological Organisation aims at generating robust data on pollutants and their link to diseases. The concept paper on linking air quality, climate change and health research that was accepted by the WHO was prepared by Dr Gufran Beig, Director of System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research and scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune; Dr Sundeep Salvi from the Chest Research Foundation, Pune; and Dr Sanjay Juvekar from KEM Hospital & Research Centre and Health and Demographic Surveillance Site at Vadu in Pune.


Climate change is poised to worsen air quality globally.

A communication gap has traditionally existed among data gatherers, forecasters of weather, and health professionals responsible for preventive care and making policy decisions on human health, besides climate and air quality, Beig told The Indian Express.

“We want to understand the relationship among air pollution, climate change and disease and establish a forecast model to issue health advisories related to air pollution and climate and give health predictions to the public and provide information on preventive guidelines,” experts have written in their concept paper to the WHO and WMO which commissioned the study in Pune.

In Pune, already a framework of air quality and health was established where air quality domain experts (IITM/SAFAR) and health experts (CRF and KEMHRC) work together for a better understanding of the link between air pollution and health.

SAFAR facilitates current and forecasted information 24 to 72 hours in advance for O3 (ozone), NOx, CO, PM2.5, PM10, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), weather parameters and ultraviolet ray index.

The CRF has state-of-the-art pulmonary function laboratories to measure obstruction in airways leading to the lungs, total lung capacity, oxidative stress, oxygen flow, airway hyper responsiveness and nasal pressure and flow parameters for detecting air quality mediated health problems.

KEM Hospital & Research Centre is a health research organisation that conducts surveillance for tracking births, deaths, cause of deaths, migrations through its Health and Demographic Surveillance System at Vadu that is specifically focussing on rural India.

According to Dr Salvi, at the CRF, one of the most striking findings of a research study established the fact that parameters of Indians are 30% lower than matched Caucasians based on a lung function. The results of the study conducted in 10000 persons across five urban centres in India have been attributed to deteriorating air quality.

Dr Juvekar too pointed out that studies that focussed on rural Pune, by KEMHRC, showed a clear association between climate change and mortality due to wide variations in maximum and minimum temperatures. “This study demonstrated that the biggest impact was observed among children in the age group of 0 to 4 years where relative risk of mortality was found to increase by 66% if temperatures went above 35°C or less than 25°C, and the effect of the temperature variation could last up to six days.”

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