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Delhi Pollution: Lung, heart diseases set to see a jump in next 10 years, say doctors

There’s long-term damage due to particulate matter that gets lodged deep inside the lungs and can cause progressive lung diseases

health Updated: Nov 01, 2018 08:11 IST
Rhythma Kaul
Rhythma Kaul
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi air pollution,lung disease,heart disease
Prolonged exposure can lead to fatal lung conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), which is a progressive lung disease that makes it hard to breathe(HT/FIle Photo)

The most harmful pollutants are categorised into particulate matter and chemicals and gases, which enter and causes damage to our health if inhaled or ingested.

The size of the particulate matter hanging in the air is important as there is an increase in what is called the respirable size (particles less than 10 micron) that get lodged straight into the lungs, causing permanent damage.

“There’s long-term damage due to particulate matter that gets lodged deep inside the lungs and can cause progressive lung diseases. Even chemicals and gases are equally harmful as their side-effect is visible almost immediately,” says Rajesh Chawla, consulting pulmonologist at Indraprastha Apollo hospital.

Chemical pollutants, also known as volatile organic compounds — coming out of coal burning sites, vehicles and stone crushing sites — if inhaled even for a brief period, can lead to serious health conditions.

Exposure to pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene etc. (also known as Btex) is detrimental to human lung functioning, prompting very serious changes to occur in the lungs. These changes indicate restriction to the lung expansion, obstruction and narrowing of the airways.

“Prolonged exposure can lead to fatal lung conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), which is a progressive lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. In the next 10 years there will be a significant jump in cases of COPD because of high pollution levels” says Chawla.

One must take symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath and chest pain seriously and if these symptoms persist even after two-three weeks then a doctor should be consulted.

Doctors say pollution affects not just the lungs, but other organs such as the heart and brain over a period of time.

“It has become a usual scenario at this time of the year because all the sources of pollution hang in the air, mainly owing to the weather conditions that are conducive for the toxins to not get dispersed,” says JC Suri, former head of pulmonary medicine, Safdarjung Hospital.

“Addressing the source is critical in tackling the problem otherwise nothing significant will change,” he adds.

One must take symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath and chest pain seriously and consult a doctor

First Published: Nov 01, 2018 07:57 IST