Air pollution killed 7 million worldwide: WHO data
Inhaling polluted air affects lungs the most, shows data analysis released by World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday (India time) analysing particulate matter (PM) in the air across the globe.
Of all the deaths linked to severe air pollution, 43% were associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs, and 29% succumbed to lung cancer.
WHO estimates close to 90% of people globally were exposed to severely polluted air, and about seven million died around the world in 2016 due to reasons attributed to air pollution.
“There is a 100% correlation and COPD is triggered by both outdoor and indoor air pollution. We had done a study in the hospital years ago that gave us enough evidence to prove it. The study observed our patients for about a year and found that emergency visits due to COPD had increased by 24% within 24 to 48 hours of rise in pollution levels,” says Dr GC Khilnani, professor, department of pulmonary medicine, AIIMS.
Lung cancer, which is one of the fast spreading cancers if not diagnosed early, is also one of conditions linked with inhaling severely polluted air over a long period. “By the time people notice symptoms, the cancer has reached second or third stage, and becomes difficult to treat,” said Dr Khilnani.
Heart disease and stroke were other reasons for death that were linked to air pollution. It included both ambient (outdoor) and indoor pollution, with 25% dying of a heart disease and 24% suffering stroke.
“High air pollution levels definitely impacts functioning of the heart but we need further studies to establish the exact magnitude. It could be one of the precipitating factors,” says Dr VK Bahl, head of cardiology department, AIIMS.