New Delhi: COVID and polluted air together will be a double whammy on lungs of people. As India opens up after prolonged lockdown thanks to COVID, the thought of air thick with pollution again sends shiver down the spine. Doctors in thousands in one voice demanded from government to ensure blue skies as India recovers from Coronavirus. Ironically, the catastrophic pandemic gave vision of blue skies we long for.
Doctors for Clean Air, a pan-India network of doctors advocating for clean air, held a first of its kind full-day Conclave by doctors and for doctors on Air Pollution on the occasion of the first “International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies.”The virtual event was organized jointly by seven national medical associations, which recognize the importance of clean air for human health and represent over 130,000 Doctors: Federation of Obstetric & Gynaecological Society of India (FOGSI), Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP), Indian Chest Society (ICS), Cardiological Society of India (CSI), Indian Academy of Neurology (IAN) supported by Association of Surgeons of India (ASI) and Medical Students Association of India (MSAI). In the conclave, Doctors discussed “Health Impacts of Air Pollution on Pregnant Woman & New Born, Children, Heart, Lungs, and Brain. The conclave also discussed the role of doctors in advocating for clean air.”
In a survey among the 2000 registrants for the conclave, 99.5% respondents said Air Pollution is hazardous to our health.96.9% respondents said that the Government should prioritize the health of the citizens by ensuring clean air for all as we recover from COVID-19.
During the conclave, Dr. Maria Neira, Director, Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health Department (PHE), World Health Organization, said:“As a health professional, I have seen firsthand what air pollution does to our bodies, to our lungs, and to our brains. Polluted air, largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels, affects almost all major organs in our bodies. It is responsible for the premature death of over 1 million Indians every year, and brings huge healthcare costs to Indian families and the economy. Health professionals have a duty of care, and they take up a trusted position in society. That is why I’m so excited to see Doctors for Clean Air grow so fast, to over 200,000 doctors across the country, adding thousands of trusted voices to our race for a cleaner and healthier India.”
Dr. Arvind Kumar, Founder and Manager Trustee of the Lung Care Foundation, said:”Air Pollution not only has long-term health impacts on us but also makes people living in the polluted city more vulnerable to infectious diseases such as COVID-19 by reducing their immunity and damaging their organs. We must focus on having clean air for the health and wellbeing of our citizens and future generations.”
Presidents of 7 specialty national medical associations, representing over 130,000 Doctors, shared researchlinking air pollution and health and asked fellow medical professionals to take the lead to advocate for clean air and ask citizens and policymakers to ensure Clean Air for All for a healthy and productive India.
Air Pollution causes over 7 million premature deaths across the world, with 1.2 million people in India alone. Long term exposure to indoor and ambient (outdoor) air pollution in the country is found to be linked to nearly 5 million deaths from non-communicable diseases like stroke, diabetes, heart attack, lung cancer, chronic lung diseases. (State of Global Air 2019 published by Health Effects Institute). Recent research evidence from across the world also suggests a strong link between air pollution and COVID-19 communicable disease. A study conducted by Harvard University in the United States1 highlighted that every one µg/m3 increase in PM2.5 is associated with an 8% increase in the COVID-19 death rate. People living in polluted areas are found more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection. A strong correlation2 was observed between the increased concentration of PM2.5, Carbon monoxide (CO), Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)& higher mortality rates in Italy & the US.
Thoughts of some prominent Doctors are as follow
- Alpesh Gandhi,
President, Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI)
“Air pollution can’t be eliminated completely but we can protect ourselves. Air pollution is something we can learn about. Lifestyle and environment play a significant role in pregnancy”
- Bakul Parekh,
President, Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP)
“Air pollution leading to lower IQ, stunted growth, lower physical growth, increased obesity. Heath professionals must come together to address air pollution as a priority for collective concerted action. For the millions of children exposed to breathing polluted air there is little time to waste and so much to gain from Clean Air.”
- D.J. Christopher,
President, Indian Chest Society (ICS)
“Air pollution causing climate change has not had the expected impact on mankind, changing the narrative to its impact on health could be the game changer!”
- Mrinal Kanti Das,
President, Cardiological Society of India (CSI)
“Let us pledge for the free flow of clean air and let the billion hearts beat with the free flow of clean blood”
- Pramod Pal,
President, Indian Academy of Neurology (IAN)
“Air Pollution increases the higher chances of havingmany neurological disorders especially neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimers disease and other dementias. It also increases atherosclerosis, stroke, depression in elderly and neurodevelopmental disorders in children. We need to reduce air pollution through increasing awareness among people and regulatory agencies. Thus, will give us a brighter and healthy future.”