Fifty four-year-old Rajkumar, an autorickshaw driver in the city, fell ill a few years ago. After a dozen tests and checkups he got to know that he has a black patch in his right lung and was asked to immediately stop smoking. Surprisingly, Rajkumar is not a smoker, but the doctors were not convinced.
“I have never touched a bidi or a cigarette in my life. I am still undergoing treatment at Safdarjung Hospital. After the doctors were convinced that I do not smoke, they asked me to immediately quit my job as the continuous exposure to the toxic air was the reason for deterioration in my health. But how can I starve my family? This is my only source of income,” said Rajkumar, who is the only earning member in his family of six.
A recent study conducted by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) shows a common man who travels via public transport like buses, autos and Metro has the maximum exposure to the toxicity in the air of the most polluted city in the world.
Doctors and pulmonary experts say that the plight of people who drive these vehicles is worse. An auto driver usually is out on the roads for eight to 14 hours and has a higher risk of falling victim to lung, heart and even neurological disorders.
“A passenger at the maximum makes two to three trips in public transport but a driver is constantly out there. Especially an open vehicle like the auto increases the risk of breathing pollutants like sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and lead. Apart from increasing the possibility of fatal ailments, it also makes the driver vulnerable to cholesterol and blood pressure problems,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, head of department of medicine and sleep disorders, All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
Sunita Narain, director general of CSE, which conducted the study, also agreed that the people who are always on the go like auto and truck drivers, traffic constables among others have higher risk of contracting occupational diseases.
“People who are driving buses and autos have a reduced life span because of the pollution they are exposed to,” said Narain.
Another study conducted by US based Health Effects Institute and Delhi based The Energy Resources Institute revealed that at least 3,000 people in Delhi die premature deaths every year because of high exposure to air pollution.