Dr Vikas Oswal is a chest physician at Vikas Nursing Home, Govandi, and Kolekar Hospital, Chembur. He has been treating people who have developed health problems from the fire at the Deonar dumping ground.
Why does burning garbage lead to health problems?
The problem is that the garbage that is burnt is not segregated into dry and wet waste. Therefore, we do not know what it really contains. It could have waste such as plastic, medical waste, rubber, electronics, or even radioactive waste along with wet waste. Burning garbage, especially unsegregated, produces very toxic smoke.
What are the most harmful pollutants emitted from burning waste?
Harmful pollutants such as dioxins, lead, cadmium, mercury and carbon monoxide are present in the smoke produced when unsegregated garbage is burned. It is high time people realise the importance of segregating garbage at home. This will ensure that the waste reaches dumping grounds is less toxic.
What are the immediate and long-term effects of breathing polluted air?
The immediate effects of breathing polluted air range from cough, headache, burning eyes, giddiness and excessive mucus production. Long-term effects are far more dangerous. Chronic exposure to toxic smoke could lead to asthma, chronic lung diseases, heart problems, various cancers and neurological disorders.
Are children at a higher risk of developing respiratory problems from increased pollution levels?
Yes, children are at a higher risk of developing respiratory problems because their immune systems are not fully developed.
Have you seen a rise in the number of complaints about respiratory problems after the recent fire at the Deonar dumping ground?
I practice in Govandi and Chembur, areas that were badly affected by smoke from the Deonar fire. I have seen a nearly 20% rise in the number people complaining of severe breathing problems. Most of them are people with a history of asthma and other respiratory diseases.