A National Environmental Health Profile Project, aimed at evaluating the quantum of health effects arising from environmental exposure, is underway at the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), a senior MoEF official said.
The study will be carried out across 20 cities divided into four zones. “There are five cities in each zone and one city has been taken as a referral city. The city where the pollution levels are not very high is taken as the referral city, and the cities with the higher pollution loads are taken as test cities where the study will be conducted,” said MoEF joint secretary Ritesh Kumar Singh.
Singh recently elaborated on the Centre’s plans while speaking at the UChicago Centre in Delhi and said that all leading medical institutions in the country, including AIIMS Delhi, will be part of the three-year study. However, a meeting to be held Wednesday to decide on the protocol of the exact nature of the study was postponed till after Diwali.
Dr T K Joshi, senior advisor at MoEF for environmental health, said that principal investigators have been identified from across all institutions in the 20 cities. “All of them will follow the same protocol and there will be a harmonisation of data which will look at met data, health data and particulate matter,” he said.
The three-year analysis will look at patients admitted for acute diseases at the selected hospitals. “Focusing on outpatients is proving to be difficult since not all hospitals keep records,” he said.
The study will be rolled out across four zones. In the north zone, Delhi, Ludhiana, Kanpur and Raipur will serve as test cities while Guwahati will be the referral city. Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and Chennai will be test cities and Thiruvananthapuram will be the referral point for the south. In the west zone, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Jaipur, Bhopal will serve as test areas while Panjim will be the reference point. In the east, Patna, Kolkata, and two other cities will be test cities, and Shillong will be the referral point.
Sources in the MoEF said that a string of international studies published in recent years prompted the ministry to commission a serious study to look closely at health effects of air pollution. “We cannot just dismiss Lancet and WHO studies, so this is an attempt at coming up with our own indigenous study. We will start to see some preliminary results by next year,” said a senior official.