Doctor's call

As studies continue to mount on the dangers of air pollution, over one lakh doctors from all over India voice their concern

Published: Tuesday 31 August 1999

public concern over air pollution levels in Delhi is growing. On July 13, over 125,000 doctors of the Indian Medical Association ( ima ) voiced their concern over the increasing incidence of air pollution-related diseases in India, and specifically in Delhi, at a public event organised by the Centre for Science and Environment ( cse ). The honorary general secretary of ima , Prem Aggarwal, registered support for a "Statement of Concern" on behalf of the ima.

"Scientific evidence on the harmful effects of diesel particles is mounting and the government should take immediate steps to control particle emissions from vehicular sources responsible for causing cancer, asthma, bronchitis, sinus and a host of other respiratory disorders," said Aggarwal. Expressing concern over the rising levels of respirable particulate matter ( rspm ), he said, "The smaller and deadlier version of spm , pm 10s and even smaller particles which come from diesel exhaust are extremely toxic and are known to cause severe damage to the lungs."

Meanwhile, a new study has linked air pollution with heart ailments. Conducted by the department of medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences ( aiims) , New Delhi, the study states that there is a 30 per cent increase in acute coronary event with a rise in total suspended particulates ( tsp ) and carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide levels. These levels in Delhi are more than double the Indian Ambient Air Quality Standards, says J N Pande of aiims. " High tsp levels can aggravate chronic lung problems, emphysema and diseases that affect the functioning of the heart," says Naresh Trehan, executive director and chief cardiovascular surgeon at Escorts Heart Institute, New Delhi.

The "Statement of Concern" was first brought out by cse on June 5, 1999 on the occasion of the World Environment Day. The statement quoted World Bank estimates that Indians are spending Rs 4,550 crore annually on treatment for the health problems caused by ambient air pollution. But the most shocking statistics revealed by the statement was that the number of deaths related to air pollution had risen by 10,000 during 1992-1995 -- a death rate of one person per hour due to air pollution.

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