Air pollution – the enemy of healthy lungs
The prevalence of COPD is increasing, affecting around 12% of the world’s population. | Photo credit: AP
With the onset of autumn, Delhi the nation’s capital is like a gas chamber containing highly polluted toxic air with emissions of firecrackers and burning thatch adding fuel to the fire and breathing in the thick smog enveloping the bass. atmosphere that is full of particles and harmful gases, even for a few minutes, is enough to send chills down the spine of the talk. As usual, the sight and fury of the polluted air stirs up public passion and the government apparatus is waking up from sleep and implementing emerging measures to quell the passion, but the rage of the pollution of the world. continuous air unhindered. The consequences of acute and chronic exposure to pollution are far too severe, with the elderly, children and those with chronic respiratory ailments remaining very vulnerable to the anger of breathing highly polluted and toxic air.
Air pollution began the day man began to harness nature and the industrial revolution accelerated the process through unregulated emissions from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and carbon. oil, major sources of energy and now the world is on the brink of disaster with global health and well-being in a serious crisis, warranting the urgent implementation of effective measures to stem the growing threat.
Air pollution is a global phenomenon and according to the WHO, 8.7 million deaths worldwide in 2019, which exceeds the combined mortality from smoking and malaria, with India contributing 2.5 million the death toll and nearly 4 million deaths occur each year due to indoor air pollution alone.
Air pollution is a major cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which makes the lungs weak and unhealthy and as we celebrate “World COPD Day” on November 17th this year, we are raised awareness of this year’s theme “Healthy Lungs, Never Bigger” which aims to highlight the burden of COPD, one of the leading causes of death worldwide, even in light of the COVID-19 pandemic . There is no doubt that there is never a more important time than now to focus on lung health through preventative measures such as exercise, vaccination, avoiding pollution and quitting smoking, because diseases Respiratory diseases like COPD are man-made disasters and are highly preventable and even treatable. when detected at an early stage.
COPD is a progressive, debilitating disease characterized by persistent respiratory symptoms and limitations in airflow due to abnormalities of the airways or air sacs, usually caused by significant exposure to harmful particles or gases. Smoking is an important risk factor, but what is often less emphasized is the role of environmental pollution and occupational exposures as major risk factors. Even though cigarette smoke is harmful, what is often overlooked is the fact that persistent high-level exposure to polluted air is equivalent to smoking 10 to 15 cigarettes a day and air pollution causes more premature deaths than tobacco smoke in India. Therefore, it is not surprising that for a person with a weak chest, even slight exposure to very polluted air is sufficient to trigger an acute respiratory emergency.
The prevalence of COPD is increasing, affecting around 12% of the world’s population with more than 3 million annual deaths and is associated with a high incidence of serious co-morbidities linked to air pollution and chronic smoking, such as heart disease. , musculoskeletal disorders, malignancy, anxiety and depression. Although it is commonly seen in middle-aged smokers and the elderly, even non-smokers, including women and children, are affected, especially those who live in crowded and poorly ventilated housing.
The problem due to COPD is acute in low and middle income countries (LMICs) which account for 80 percent of global deaths and indoor air pollution from charcoal or biomass like wood, dung animals and crop residues that are used for cooking and heating remain the main risk factor.
Unfortunately, the diagnosis of COPD is often missed in the early stages of the disease because most people with the disease remain relatively asymptomatic and the first respiratory symptoms are often overlooked by the patient. Advanced COPD is difficult to treat and an acute exacerbation is associated with a high risk of death and the only treatment, lung transplantation, is extremely difficult to obtain. Despite many advances in the management of COPD, the only intervention that works favorably for the patient is to stop smoking and to breathe unpolluted, colorless, odorless and tasteless air with sufficient vital oxygen. to rejuvenate both body and mind. There is no doubt – prevention is key and avoidance of risk factors, regular medication and rehabilitation are essential in maintaining the quality of life of those affected. The healthcare burden and costs involved in managing COPD are enormous that even the most advanced countries simply cannot afford.
Experts know the damaging effects of air pollution and climate change on human health and disease, but there is no foolproof solution to replacing highly polluting conventional energy with sustainable green energy and global measures taken so far in this regard are grossly inadequate. to reduce toxic emissions. The World Health Organization‘s action plan to promote a clean and safe intervention for COPD prevention through the Clean Home Energy Solutions Toolkit (CHEST) can only succeed in achieving the mission the collective will of all stakeholders.
Time is running out and the Climate Change Conferences of the Parties (COPs) at this year’s 26th annual conference agreed to cut CO2 and methane emissions, phase out fossil fuel subsidies, stop deforestation and switch to green energy sources to avoid climate catastrophe. Breathing clean air is a fundamental right of every creature, which cannot be suppressed by cosmetic changes, and concrete preventive actions must begin immediately.
Lieutenant-General Retd Dr. Prof. BNBM Prasad is a guest contributor. The opinions expressed are personal.