Beware of your breath this Diwali!

Updated: Nov 02, 2013, 10:05 AM IST

Zee Research Group

With Diwali round the corner, air pollution levels are bound to rise in the country. There has been a steady rise year on year in pollution levels during Diwali time.

Air pollutant levels during Diwali in 2012 were found to be higher as compared to 2011, according to a report of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) released in 2012.

While Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata and Hyderabad showed a decreasing trend in real time noise level, no change in sound- level was observed in Mumbai, the report said.

During 2012 CPCB conducted the Real Time Continuous Ambient Noise Monitoring at 35 locations in seven cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

The most recent data by ‘The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)’ released in October 2013 indicated that in 2010, 2, 23, 000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide resulted due to air pollution.

Some of the cities whose citizens are most at risk lie in India and China.

Air Pollution is already known to increase risks for a wide range of diseases, such as respiratory and heart diseases. Endorsing the above view, Dr. Srikant Sharma, consultant internal medicine at Moolchand Medicty, Delhi said, “Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) tends to increase by five times in air during diwali. Also, the levels of Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide and heavy metals like lead, chromium and zinc rises which leads to the development of diseases like Bronchial Asthma, allergic reactions in skin and in the long run can also cause lung cancer.”

The IARC reviewed 1,000 scientific papers on five continents before going public. Previously only specific components of air pollution, such as diesel exhausts, were implicated in cancers.

Although India is less industrialized than China, Indian cities, according to the IARC, are more vulnerable.

“Pregnant ladies are also vulnerable to various diseases due to the pollution caused by firecrackers. The babies born are generally underweight due to aftereffects of Diwali,” further added Dr. Sharma at Moolchand Medcity.

In addition to the smoke, there are other factors which also contribute in air pollution. Concurring with the above view, Chitra Mukherjee, manager outreach and advocacy at Chintan, a non-governmental organisation working in environmental research, said , “ The pollution in the form of high levels of dioxins , furans and heavy metals produced by the waste to energy plants further burden the pollution levels in addition to the vehicular and firecracker pollution.”

According to another report ‘Outdoor air pollution among top global health risks in 2010’ published by Health Effects Institute, an USA based non-governmental organization, stated that outdoor air pollution contributed to over 620,000 premature deaths and nearly 18 million healthy years of life lost in India in 2010.

Precaution is always better than cure. Supporting the view, Dr. Sharma at Moolchand Medcity said, “Fire Crackers should be burst under permissible levels. Asthma patients should avoid coming in contact with any sort of smoke during diwali. One can also make use of masks to avoid the contact of smoke.”

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