Via The Guardian: India's doctors blame air pollution for sharp rise in respiratory diseases. Excerpt:
A sharp rise in cases of chest and throat disease in India is being blamed by doctors on worsening air pollution in the country, which is now home to 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world.
According to India’s National Health Profile 2015, there were almost 3.5m reported cases of acute respiratory infection (ARI) last year, a 140,000 increase on the previous year and a 30% increase since 2010.
The number of ARI cases has risen steadily in India over the last 15 years, even when population growth is taken into account. In 2001, less than 2,000 cases per 100,000 people had an ARI. In 2012 the number was 2,600 per 100,000, statistics show.
The rise has occurred despite steady improvements in medical care and nutrition, as well as a shift away from using wood as fuel in rural areas. Together this has mitigated many factors long blamed for the high levels of respiratory diseases in India.
Doctors are blaming the increasing severity of the problem on unprecedented decline in air quality across India.
“Due to the awareness drives conducted about diseases like swine flu and influenza, people have become more aware ... Yet air pollution is playing a major role in [increasing] the numbers of such diseases,” Dr Jugal Kishore, head of community medicine at Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital, told the local India Today news magazine.
Attention to the problem of air pollution in India has so far focused almost exclusively on the capital. One study found that half of Delhi’s 4.4 million schoolchildren would never recover full lung capacity.
But the rest of India has received less attention, though in many cases the problem is almost as acute, or possibly worse. The latest government figures show high numbers of lung and throat infections in the eastern state of West Bengal, the central state of Andhara Pradesh, as well as in tourist favourites Kerala and Rajasthan.
Mumbai also has pollution levels which, though lower than in Delhi, exceed safe limits set by the Indian government many times. Those limits are significantly higher than those set by international experts and western governments.
This summer, some reports suggested that Chennai experience worse pollution than anywhere else in India. Though the data has been challenged, it is clear that the levels of hazardous gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone, as well as of deadly fine particulates, in the southern city have consistently breached the World Health Organisation’s maximum safe limit.