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Every breath you take…

If you have been wheezing and coughing, or are feeling stressed out or distracted more than usual, you may want to consider changing neighbourhoods, reports Chetan Chauhan.

delhi Updated: Oct 01, 2008 00:12 IST
Chetan Chauhan

If you have been wheezing and coughing, or are feeling stressed out or distracted more than usual, you may want to consider changing neighbourhoods. A government study has found that people living in polluted neighbourhoods in Delhi can blame their lung problems, inability to concentrate and high blood pressure on air pollution.

As many as 40.3 per cent adults and 43.5 per cent children in Delhi have reduced lung function, reports a study by Kolkata’s Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute and Central Pollution Control Board.

North Delhi was most polluted, with people in Lawrence Road and Chandni Chowk neighbourhoods reporting greater lung impairment than those in the relatively cleaner south Delhi neighbourhoods of Greater Kailash and Hauz Khas.

Lung function impairment was a high 66.6 per cent to 73.3 per cent among children in north Delhi, where the suspended respirable particulate matter (RSPM) was the highest — 179-186 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3).

The percentage of affected children is lower at 25.8 to 32.6 per cent in south Delhi, where RSPM is between 137 and 144 (µg/m3), the lowest in the Capital from 2002 to 2005.

Mukherjee Nagar resident Ashita Agarwal bears the health impact of pollution every moment as a fall in air quality aggravates her son’s asthma. “Whenever the air gets smoggy, my nine-year-old gets an attack. He has to be rushed to Patel Chest Institute,” says Agarwal, who was in hospital with her son on Tuesday, when RSPM levels crossed 250 µg/m3 in north Delhi.

“We found that a reduction in lung function is directly related to air pollution. Even smokers — who have more lung defects than non-smokers — in polluted areas had poorer lung function than those in less polluted areas,” said Twisha Lahiri, the principal investigator of the study.

Among the worst affected are traffic police constables manning busy intersections. “When I am at work during peak morning and evening hours, I have to sometimes make an effort to inhale the polluted air. I now have a constant burning sensation in my lungs,” said a constable who did not wish to be named.

The study, which was released last week, examined 6,005 adults and 11,628 children in Delhi between 2002 and 2005 and the findings were compared with data for people living in rural Delhi, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.