Doctors issues Health Advisory on the eve of National Pollution Control Day

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Kolkata, Dec, 2022:  A health advisory was issued at a press conference organized by the SwitchON Foundation at the press club earlier today. The health advisory provides numerous ways in which citizens can prevent impact from air pollution, beside preventive measures and practices that should be adopted in everyday life by citizens to better prepare from the onslaught of polluted winter days. 

Doctors attending the press conference called upon all stakeholders to understand the magnitude of this problem. It’s killing millions of people, It’s causing disease, disability, and it’s causing huge economic loss to the country.

According to the State of Global Air report, 2022, Kolkata ranks as the second most polluted city in the world. Kolkata has an annual average of 84 μg/m3 of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), 17 times the recommended WHO safe limit. Between March and May 2022, nine of the 10 most polluted locations in West Bengal recorded a PM 2.5 concentration higher than the safe limit of 40 micrograms per cubic meter of air prescribed by the CPCB, according to Climate Trends analysis.

Attending the Press Conference Dr Arup Halder, Consultant Pulmonologist, Woodlands Multispeciality Hospitals stated: “According to the global burden of diseases air pollution is the 4th leading cause of mortality in the world and we lose 90 lakhs people every year due to air pollution in the world. This war against air pollution can only be fought with awareness. If you have money you can buy good food, clean water, but cannot buy clean air. Continuous programs will only create awareness about this air pollution and that will change the government to change its policies.”

The event held today coincides with the National Pollution Control Day, which is observed on December 2 every year in memory of those who suffered and lost their lives in the horrific 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy. This year marks the 38th anniversary of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.

It is observed as a reminder to all of the extent of damage environmental degradation like air pollution can have on human life. The chronic exposure to air pollution has large similarity with the fateful incident occurred due to the accidental discharge of the toxic chemical gas methyl isocyanate and other toxic gasses from the Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal on the night of December 2, 1984.

Dr. Sanjukta Dutta, Consultant and Head, Emergency Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Kolkata & Chair, EM and Public Health Wing, Society for Emergency Medicine India, WB Chapter said I’ve been treating patients in different emergency departments in Kolkata for more than 2 decades. Situation is worsening over time and now it’s really threatening. During winter city hospitals are flooded with patients of lung ailments. People from all ages need oxygen, nebulization, critical care, many even die. I’m scared when I think about what would happen to our kids when they would grow up with scarred lungs. Can’t we try together to reduce pollution in Kolkata and create a better life for us, for our near and dear ones?”

Dr. MV Chandrakanth, Consultant Medical Oncology, NH Narayana Superspeciality Hospitals  Howrah – “Now, there is enough epidemiologic and experimental evidence of the genotoxic and mutagenic effects of air pollution on human DNA, which is a key cancer driver.”

Dr. KaustavChoudhary, Pediatric Consultant, Apollo Gleneagles Hospital – “Air pollution is a major environmental health threat. Recent data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that air pollution has a vast and terrible impact on child health and survival.”

DrKoushikChaki , Executive Committee Member, West Bengal Doctors Forum attending the event stated: “Children face special risks from air pollution because their lungs are growing” He further added by saying “Industrial workers have been facing many health related issues like pneumoconiosis, asbestosis, silicosis apart from mental health related issues and many other occupational health issues. These groups must be taken care of with adequate and appropriate prevention measures as well as post exposure care and support.”

Dr. Manodipa Mondal, Consultant, Radiation Oncologist, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Member of Executive committee, Association of Radiation Oncology WB, AROI “ Lung cancer is the leading cancer site among the cancer patients in Kolkata and West Bengal and its rise over the years has been alarming (14.9% in 2006-07 to 20% in 2020). It is now seen more commonly among females and non smokers than it used to before. A recent report states that Kolkata’s air quality worsened dramatically in the 3rd week of November this year, with an air quality index of 241 (poor) which is higher than that of Delhi! Ultra-fine particulate matter in the air (particularly PM 2.5) brought about by vehicular emissions and poor waste disposal are responsible for epithelial proliferation and overgrowth leading to cancer

Ms. Ipsita Prosad, General Secretary, SAMSA – As a part of the upcoming generation of doctors and healthcare workers, this National Pollution Control Day, we should pledge to educate our patients about the impact of air pollution, and the ways of reducing its effects on our health.

PM2.5 concentration on an average in Kolkata air is currently above the WHO. While the AQI level in Kolkata is currently around 189 as of 1st December 2022, suggesting breathing discomfort to the people with lungs, asthma and heart diseases. Based on PM2.5 concentration for the past couple of years, the region is expected to witness – high levels of pollution in the coming months.

Vinay Jaju, Founder SwitchON Foundation later concluded the event: “Health professionals are calling the air pollution and health emergency, these advisory coming from Doctors must be taken up seriously. He further added stating – “Vehicular emissions are the largest emitters and the city needs to prioritize Cycles, Walking and Public Transport on an urgent basis.”