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Air Pollution through the lens - A Health Emergency

Air pollution, a health emergency for everyone

Air pollution is a growing public concern across the world. New data shows that every year 8.8 million people die early as a consequence of air pollution, more than those by smoking (7 million). 92% of the entire human race is breathing unsafe air. In fact, new studies show that air pollution may be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body, according to a comprehensive new global review.

Yet it is still not seen as a health emergency. We believe that pictures speak louder than words. We partnered with renowned French photographer Melanie Dornier to show how each one of us, irrespective of gender, financial status, or age is breathing the same dirty air. She pictured children, elderly, the rich, the poor, policemen and auto-rikshaw drivers demand clean air. The mask on their faces, and a lung x-ray in their hands speak to their fear for their health, the frustration for not being able to do anything about it, anger at those creating it and appeal to everyone to recognize how urgent it is to act on this health emergency now.

Our children - the most protected are the most prone

Our children, are the most helpless, yet the most affected by air pollution. Because, for their small body size, they breathe more air than adults. Pollution can cause irreversible damage to their lungs which are still developing. They want to spend more time playing outdoors but they can't.

Children wearing mask
Children wearing mask
Children wearing mask

Studies have shown that 40% of children in Delhi have reduced lung capacity. It affects their brains and can lead to autism and lower IQ. More than one in every four deaths of children under 5 years is directly or indirectly related to environmental risks. Both ambient and household air pollution contribute to respiratory tract infections that resulted in 543,000 deaths in children under 5 years in 2016.

People with lung and heart disease at increased risk

People with heart or lung disease such as coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - are at increased risk, because particulates can aggravate these diseases. They feel their health steadily degrade due to the quality of air they are breathing. They fear the onset of winters, which brings worsening symptoms and emergency visits.

People with lung and heart disease at increased risk
People with lung and heart disease at increased risk

Pregnant mothers fear for their unborn child

Pregnant mothers fear what the air pollution will do to their unborn child and to its health after it is born. Exposure to air pollution is as dangerous for pregnant women as smoking when it comes to increasing the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, birth defects, autism and asthma. Air pollution significantly increases the risk of low birth weight in babies, leading to lifelong damage to their health, according to a study conducted in London, UK.

Pregnant mothers fear for their unborn child

Exercising was never unhealthy until now

Health conscious people who exercise regularly, eat healthy and take pride in staying away from illnesses are now more prone than ever. Exercising is prescribed by doctors for healthy living. However in a polluted environment, exercise can do more harm than help. Exercise and physical activity can cause people to breathe faster and more deeply — and to take more particles into their lungs. The most health conscious people, who love working out in the wee hours of the morning are at most risk due to high PM2.5 levels in the early mornings.

exercising outdoors
exercising outdoors

Older people are at high risk

The elderly already struggling with slowly declining health, fear a rapid acceleration in this decline. Older adults are at increased risk, because they may have undiagnosed heart or lung disease or diabetes. Many studies show that when particle levels are high, older adults are more likely to be hospitalized and some may die of aggravated heart or lung disease. A study shows that 4.9 parts per billion higher NO2 concentrations are associated with a 12% increased risk of diagnosed heart attacks, surgery or death from heart disease among the elderly.

woman wearing mask

People who have no choice but to spend large amount of times outdoors & exposed

But it is the people like the auto-rikshaw driver and the traffic policeman, who due to their occupational hazard breathe dirty fumes all day on the road and have no where to hide. The poverty struck children and families, who live on the street, and the daily commuters who don't have access to sealed cars face the highest risk. They do not have the luxury to protect themselves behind closed doors and purifiers and are unfortunately the worst effected by air pollution.

people outdoors and exposed
people outdoors and exposed
people outdoors and exposed
people outdoors and exposed
people outdoors and exposed
people outdoors and exposed
people outdoors and exposed

What can we do to join our hands against air pollution

It is truly time we all come together to pledge our support for clean air. And this is all the more imperative today because our capacity to pollute is increasing exponentially and the only way to curb pollution is by making changes at the individual level.

We can each pledge to pick at least one if not more of these actions in our fight against pollution:

  1. Try to car pool whenever possible and use school buses or public transport services for travelling to office. This way we can reduce the number on cars and hence emissions on the roads.
  2. Say no to diesel cars and switch to petrol or electric cars. Diesel vehicles emissions are higher and more harmful when compared to petrol vehicles.
  3. Install solar panels to reduce energy consumption. This will help us to move towards green energy and retire thermal power plants which are a huge source of pollution.
  4. Limit the usage of Diesel generators and use inverters or solar panels for electricity.
  5. Recycle, reuse, reduce. Take reusable bags and bottles to the market and say no to plastic bags and bottles. Avoid using single use plastics and disposable cutlery.
  6. Plant one tree. Plant more if you can. Chose a tree that grows easily based on your local climate and plant it a week before monsoon. Ensure it is not too close to a building and gets proper sunlight. Fill your home and balconies with plants.
  7. Reduce your carbon footprint: When ready to replace, look for Energy Star appliances. Eat local, and take good care of your cars.

Join us now by taking a personal pledge here https://www.airveda.com/ibreathe. Please share specific actions which you are taking or will take to reduce your footprint on air pollution in the comments below. This will encourage others to do the same.

Author

About the author

Rashi Borana is an Airveda team member passionate about air quality.