Amid high pollution levels, docs urge people to keep lungs healthy

Story by  IANS | Posted by  Tripti Nath | Date 15-11-2023


New Delhi

Amid poor air quality levels in Delhi-NCR, health experts on World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Day on Wednesday stressed on the need to keep lungs healthy. 
The national Capital and surrounding cities of Noida, Greater Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurugram and Faridabad have been facing severe air pollution for the last two to three weeks.
Despite a ban on firecrackers and appeals for eco-friendly celebrations, massive Diwali fireworks intensified the pollution in the region, releasing particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide.
On Tuesday evening, the overall Air Quality Index (AQI) was recorded at 370 in Delhi, according to data from the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR).
World COPD is marked every year on November 15. The theme this year -- Breathing is Life - Act Earlier -- focuses on the significance of early diagnosis, management, and frontline interventions to maintain healthy lungs.
COPD is a progressive lung condition encompassing chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
It is characterised by inflamed and narrowed airways leading to increased mucus production, as well as damage to the lung's air sacs.
COPD also results in symptoms like chronic cough, phlegm, shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness.
“It is a pity that despite a ban on firecrackers and an appeal to switch to green crackers, massive fireworks on Diwali made the situation more alarming. Firecrackers release various pollutants, including particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and carbon monoxide (CO). While cigarette smoking is a primary risk factor, prolonged exposure to air pollutants contributes significantly to COPD,” Dr. (Col) Vijay Dutta, Director, Internal Medicine and Respiratory Services, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, New Delhi, told IANS.
“COPD is emerging as an independent risk factor for future heart disease. We strongly recommend improving lung health by ensuring lifestyle changes, quitting smoking, and gathering support within the public to raise voices against this menace of air pollution,” added Dr. Animesh Arya, Senior Consultant- Pulmonology at Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute.
According to recent research published in ‘The Lancet’, COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide and it caused 3.3 million deaths in 2019, with China recording the highest toll, followed by India and the US.
India is estimated to face the third-highest economic burden of COPD from 2020-50 after China and the US, it said.
In India, COPD incurs 2-4-fold higher costs compared with asthma and ischaemic heart disease, and studies have shown that the costs of managing acute exacerbations of COPD contribute 45-70 per cent to the total expenses of COPD management. COPD causes an economic loss of more than 100,000 crore rupees per annum in India, which is forecast to increase in the coming years due to the increased prevalence of COPD and poor awareness of COPD among the community and healthcare professionals. COPD screening and identification can prevent disease progression and reduce health burden.
Experts also emphasise on cost-effective interventions such as community-based COPD screening. Such interventions could also help reduce COPD morbidity and mortality rates, they said.
"Maintaining optimal lung health is a fundamental aspect of overall wellbeing, and the imperative to address it is now more critical than ever. We've come to understand that COPD, traditionally associated with tobacco smoking, can be influenced by various factors and manifest early in life, affecting even young individuals," emphasised Dr Sandeep Jain, Consultant, Pulmonology, Narayana Hospital, Howrah.