Doctors concerned over rising pollution in Punjab


Concerned over the rising air pollution and its severe health impact on the people of Punjab, medical practitioners of the Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali tricity came together for a health convention held here on Monday.

The convention, which was organised keeping in mind the World Health Day on April 7, aimed at bringing medical practitioners together on a common platform to draw attention to the health cost of air pollution and the urgent need for mitigation.

The convention was organised by Clean Air Punjab — a collective of individuals and organisations working on the issue of air pollution along with the Lung Care Foundation and Doctors for Clean Air.

Senior doctors comprising Zafar Ahmad of the Department of Pulmonology, Sleep and Critical Care Medicine in Fortis Hospital, Vanita Gupta, IMA President (Chandigarh), Preeti Arun Joint Director, GRIID, Reena Jain, clinic in charge, GRIID, Diljot Singh Bedi, Consultant Paediatrics and Neonatology with Fortis, and Wasim Ahmad Assistant Professor (Intellectual Disability) with GRIID were part of the panel.

The engaging discussion highlighted the pressing need for action on air quality, both in terms of awareness and education as well as to try and take active measures to reduce the risks of air pollution on health.

According to Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Survey 2019, air pollution was responsible for more than 40,000 deaths in Punjab in 2019.

There are nine non-attainment cities in Punjab and six of these have one real-time monitoring station each. During winter 2020, daily averages of PM2.5 concentrations were as high as 180 ug/m3 (three times the permissible limit) on some days.

Arvind Kumar, Chest Surgeon, Founder and Managing Trustee with Lung Care Foundation and doctors for Clean Air said that air pollution is a serious health hazard affecting the entire country.

“With 22 out of 30 polluted cities of the world being in India, the health risk faced by the citizens is immense. Various Indian and global reports put the number of deaths caused due to air pollution in India in millions,” he said.

“In India, indoor air pollution also poses threat accounting for over two million deaths, 44 per cent due to pneumonia, 54 per cent due to COPD and two per cent due to lung cancer. Children, adolescent, women and elderly are the vulnerable group for respiratory morbidity and mortality,” said Zafar Ahmad.

Vanita Gupta highlighted that air pollutants damage the skin by inducing oxidative stress. “Though human skin acts as a biological shield against pro-oxidative chemicals and physical air pollutants, prolonged or repetitive exposure to high levels of these pollutants may have profound negative effects on the skin.”

“Exposure to ultraviolet radiation has been associated with extrinsic skin ageing and skin cancers,” she said.

The doctors on the panel said this convening also provided them with a platform to call for support from other doctors across the country, which will help in strengthening the network of regional doctors across India as every city in India was impacted by air pollution.