NEW DELHI: Exposure to air toxins causes frequent infections and airway inflammation that causes irreversible damage to the lungs even of children as young as 15, say doctors.
“The condition of lungs of Delhi people is so bad I have seen not more than a couple of red lungs during a lung surgery in my career so far. The lungs were black and in most cases the patients weren’t smokers,” says Dr Sushil Munjal, chest physician at the National Institute of Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases.
“Lung surgeries in kids are rare, but I can say for sure that we would see changes in lungs even in young children with the level of pollution we are dealing with,” Dr Munjal adds.
Doctors categorise harmful pollutants into two levels—particulate matter and chemicals.
The size of the particulate matter hanging in the air is important as there is an increase in what is called the respirable size, which is of particles between 2 and 5 micron.
“These get lodged straight into the lungs, causing permanent damage,” says Dr JC Suri, professor and head at department of pulmonary medicine and critical care at Safdarjung Hospital.
The pollutants coming out of stone crushing sites, coal burning sites and vehicles, if inhaled and absorbed even for a brief period, can lead to serious health conditions.
“Prolonged exposure can lead to fatal conditions like aplastic anaemia and several types of cancers as pollutants like ammonia, arsenic, benzene etc. are known carcinogens,” says Dr Suri.
One must take symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain seriously and if these persist even after two-three weeks then consult a doctor.