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Pollution behind more ailments than smoking: Research

Around 25% of COPD cases in India are attributable to smoking, said the paper on the burden of chronic respiratory diseases. COPD cases in India nearly doubled from 28.1 million in 1990 to 55.3 million in 2016

health Updated: Sep 13, 2018 09:02 IST
Jayashree Nandi
Jayashree Nandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Health,Pollution,chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder
Foreign tourists wearing masks as they visit Lotus Temple on a smoggy morning, in New Delhi, India.(HT File Photo)

Smoking causes more than 80% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) cases in the developed world. But over half (54%) of them in India are attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution, according to a Lancet Global Health research paper.

This makes the air we breathe as bad as smoking, depending on our proximity and exposure to pollution sources. Around 25% of COPD cases in India are attributable to smoking, said the paper on the burden of chronic respiratory diseases. COPD cases in India nearly doubled from 28.1 million in 1990 to 55.3 million in 2016. Other smoke sources impact the lungs too. “For example, smoke from one mosquito coil can be as bad as smoking 100 cigarettes and burning one ‘dhoop’(short 4-cm incense) can be as harmful as smoking 500 cigarettes because they are usually lit indoors and release a lot of fine particulate matter which is very harmful to the airways ...” said the paper’s lead author and Chest Research Foundation director, Dr Sundeep Salvi.

He said there is an acute lack of awareness on how indoor and outdoor air pollution cause systemic changes in the body.

About 10.7% of Indians smoke, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2016-17. Salvi, in his paper, has underlined that a substantial portion of COPD cases in India occurs in people who have never smoked.

Apart from COPD, air pollution also raises risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes prevalence. Air pollution contributes to about 4-5% of diabetes cases in India. “Air pollution is an endocrine disruptor; it gets into the blood and impacts the hormones. It damages the beta cells in the pancreas that produces insulin...” said Dr Vishwanathan Mohan, lead author of the paper on diabetes in the journal.

“Air pollution also contributes or is a risk factor for 3.3% of all cancers and 43% for lung cancer,” said Indian Council of Medical Research’s Dr Prashant Mathur, who is the lead author of the paper on cancer prevalence.

Cases of COPD are rising in the contiguous northern states of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Haryana, which have high indoor pollution because of smoke from heating and cooking fires.

First Published: Sep 13, 2018 07:53 IST