Latest research (Apte et. al. 2015) shows across India, that as many as 4 Lakhs premature deaths per year could be prevented if the WHO AQG levels were met during the coming years. Deaths from air pollution would increase by 20-30% in India, if no action is taken to bring down the current air pollution level.
Humans have a relatively good immunity against microbiological contamination (infectious or allergenic substances like bacteria, yeast, mould, fungi, virus and pollen or their toxins and by-products). But there is no “immunity” against particulates that we breathe in. Ultra-fine particulates (less than 2.5 µm) travel deep into alveoli and stays there starting to reduce the active surface area of lungs. Larger particles are of less concern, although they irritate eyes, nose & throat. More particulates we breath in, higher is the risk of reduced lung capacity, asthma, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Fine and especially ultra-fine particulates contains microscopic droplets that are so small that they can get deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems for humans. Scientific studies have linked particulate pollution exposure to a variety of problems, including premature death in people with heart or lung disease, non-fatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, and increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty in breathing.
Deposition of inhaled particles:
WHO reasserted in 2013 that PM2.5 and ultra-fine particulate pollution are carcinogenic to humans and WHO Indoor Air Quality Guideline states that PM2.5 level of 35 µg/m3 is already associated with about the 15% higher long-term mortality risk. Other harmful air pollution are chemicals, like Ozone, Sulphur dioxide, Nitrogen dioxide, Lead and Ammonia.
Here are some of the latest international research results related to health effects of particulate pollution:
- Nearly HALF of Delhi’s children suffer ‘severe’ lung problems due to air pollution (2015). Source: HEAL Foundation and Breathe Blue
- Air pollution is the third largest cause of stroke. Source: Lancent Neurology
- Air pollution particulates are found inside the human brains and are linked to be a potential risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Source: Lancaster University
- Air pollution can increase the diabetes risk. Source: German Research Center for Environmental Health
- Long-term exposure to air pollution is likely to cause damages to the kidneys. Source: Journal of the American Society of Nephrology
Air Pollution and Cigarette Equivalence
The annual average of PM2.5 level (WHO report 2015) in various Indian cities has been calculated as daily cigarette equivalence by assuming thet PM2.5 level of 22 μg/m3 is equivalent of one cigarette per day (Berkeley Earth).
- Gwalior 176 μg/m3 8.0 cigarettes/day
- Allahabad 170 μg/m3 7.7
- Patna 149 μg/m3 6.8
- Raipur 144 μg/m3 6.5
- Delhi 122 μg/m3 5.5
- Ahmedabad 100 μg/m3 4.5
- Jammu 64 μg/m3 2.9
- Bangalore 63 μg/m3 2.9
- Mumbai 63 μg/m3 2.9
- Kolkata 63 μg/m3 2.9
- Rishikesh 58 μg/m3 2.6
- Shimla 31 μg/m3 1.4
Continuous inhale of particulate matter creates permanent damages into our lungs.