Residents of Delhi-NCR have been breathing-in a lethal cocktail of pollutants for a while and the situation has turned grave this year as well with Air Quality Index dipping to ‘severe’ levels in bordering Ghaziabad. However, we seem to be alarmingly nonchalant when it comes to understanding the severity of the situation as it makes us prone to irreversible damage with each breath we take.
Millions of people residing in Delhi and nearby areas of Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurugram and Faridabad are coughing and going about their daily lives without understanding the deep impact this toxic air has on us and our loved ones. When you take in the polluted air of Delhi-NCR, you breathe-in heavy dust particles, pollen, dead skin cells, aerosols, bacteria, house dust mite allergens, cement dust, fly ash, tobacco smoke and soot among others.
Such a cocktail of hazardous pollutants in the air can, and will, make you sick, really sick.
Garbage and open defecation woes
The open garbage dumps across Delhi-NCR and open defecation all over the city makes it a breeding ground for disgusting and disease-causing bacteria, viruses and mould spores. If you can smell it, the molecules of these microbes are already in your nose!
Particulate Matter – Your life in danger
Now, let us understand what breathing this dust-filled air does to your body. Heavy dust with PM 10 can lead to silicosis, an illness that occurs when a person breathes this kind of dust for a long period. The fine silica particles can lead to scarring of lungs, leading to lung cancer.
It does not mean that fine Particulate Matter (PM) is less harmful. In fact, PM 2.5 is a type of pollutant that Delhi-NCR is particularly riddled with and is associated with a bigger impact on our health. Since the particles are minute and light, they tend to reach the lungs faster and have a deeper impact on lung function.
PM 2.5 is more dangerous for another reason, these particles are lighter and don’t settle down easily. Instead, PM 2.5 tends to circulate in the air freely and is a major trigger of ailments like asthma, bronchitis and even heart attack. It is for this reason that every year around Diwali, there is a spike in cases of deaths due to cardiovascular failure.
Lethal impact on vulnerable groups
The impact of Delhi’s air pollution is more damaging on children, elderly and pregnant women. School-going kids stand at an astounding risk of contracting respiratory diseases in this situation and pollutants can irreversibly damage their health. According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, 6 lakh children die globally due to air pollution and India is high on the list with 1,00,000 children dying nationwide due to air pollution.
The numbers are in our face, the pollution is in our lungs. If we don’t switch to greener modes of travel and power consumption, the day is not far when we would be gasping for painful breaths, wishing we had done something about the situation when we were warned and had the time…