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"Delhi's air is totally unfit to breathe; Children and the elderly are the most affected":Dr Arvind Kumar Alert


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Repeated episodes of dense smog in the national Capital have once again deteriorated the lives of patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD). Doctors say not only OPDs, but clinics too are running full, with most patients complaining of breathing problems.
Last month, Dr Randeep Guleria, director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) had termed air pollution a 'slow and silent killer'. Doctors said they are witnessing about a 50 per cent surge in patients complaining of breathing problems, with children and the elderly most affected. "Nebuliser machines used for inhalation therapy are now present in almost every other house. This indicates the increase in severity of respiratory diseases," said Dr Vikas Maurya, head of respiratory unit at Fortis healthcare.
Delhi's poor air quality is the after-effect of smoke from stubble burning, vehicular pollution, rampant construction activities and road dust.
"Delhi's air is totally unfit to breathe. We are witnessing a large number of patients with uncontrollable asthma, and they are advised nebulisers and steroids. The emergency wards, ICUs and OPDs are loaded with patients," said Dr Arvind Kumar, chairman of the centre for chest surgery at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
On the other hand, the Delhi government has already issued a health advisory for respiratory patients not to go out for morning walks and alerted all hospitals to give priority to chest patients.
Not just chest congestion, residents are also complaining of itching and redness in the eyes.
Echoing similar view over the worsening effects of air pollution on health, (Prof) Dr Raj Kumar, head of the department of pulmonary medicine at Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute said, "Cases of respiratory ailments double every year. Not only patients with pre-existing respiratory complications suffer, but we also see normal patients complaining of breathlessness."
On the other hand, the US embassy website too has repeatedly urged Delhi residents to avoid all outdoor exertion as concentrations of the smallest and most harmful airborne pollutants known as PM2.5 soared to hazardous levels. These tiny particles - a fraction the size of human hair - lodge deep in the lungs and are linked to higher rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease.
The concentration of such particles on Tuesday hit 398 - compared to a maximum level of 25 considered safe by the World Health Organisation - over a 24-hour period. Even limited exposure can cause shortness of breath, make the eyes water and throat burn.
Pollution levels generally rise during the winter in Delhi and across northern India, fuelled by crop burning in Punjab and Haryana and the fact that cooler air traps particulates close to the ground.
On Tuesday, Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan asserted that protecting the planet was not just the government's political or social obligation, but a moral responsibility as well. He announced that India would host World Environment Day, 2018.