Our cities are growing by the day. And so are the pollution levels in the air. Last year, air pollution claimed more than 1.8 million lives in India, which means it is more deadly than AIDS, TB and Malaria put together. With the steep increase in the number of vehicles and constructions, the air quality in Kochi too has witnessed a sharp fall. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that covered 3000 major cities in the world, the atmospheric pollution level in Kochi is 38 micrograms, which is higher than any other city in the State. As per the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), the reason for high pollution levels in Kochi is due to the increase in the number of vehicles (especially diesel vehicles), non-stop construction activities and road re-laying. Kochi’s RSPM (respiratory suspended particulate matter) levels too have increased over the past 10 years, which means that the air is getting thicker with pollutants.
How Does Air Pollution Affect You?
There’s no clean, fresh air in cities any more. The air we breathe is loaded with toxic substances like dust, particulate matter, chemical vapours, toxic fumes, lead, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, pollen and ozone, which can cause irreversible lung damage and serious respiratory disorders including lung cancer. Put simply, breathing polluted air is like inhaling poison in small doses. And unfortunately, it’s our children who are the worst affected, for it affects their normal lung growth and lung capacity/function.
Air Pollution & Respiratory Diseases
Every time you are exposed to polluted air, you inhale a toxic mix of chemicals, compounds and particulate matter, which, across time, end up settling in your respiratory tract and lungs. This can lead to serious respiratory diseases like:
- Recurring allergies due to dust and suspended particles.
- Asthma or wheezing due to breathing obstruction and inflammation caused by dust and chemical fumes..
- Pneumonia due to constant exposure to pollutants including tobacco smoke.
- Bronchitis due to exposure to dust, fumes, vapours and cigarette smoke.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as a result of immunological response to harmful pollutants
- Emphysema or shortness of breath due to damage in the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs.
- Lung cancer.
Air pollution can also trigger/ worsen existing respiratory conditions, especially in children and the elderly.
How Can You Prevent Pollution Induced Respiratory Diseases?
All of us are prone to respiratory diseases caused by air pollution. However, people who are exposed to polluted air for prolonged periods on a regular basis – like those who travel on two wheelers and walk to work/ school/ college – fall in the high-risk category.
Though we can’t escape or stop air pollution, we can effectively prevent it from making us sick. And the easiest way to do it is minimise the exposure by wearing N90 or N95 anti-pollution masks, especially while riding two-wheelers or travelling in buses without air conditioners. These masks are easily available online and are economical and long lasting. So the next time you wear a helmet, remember there’s one more thing that you need to protect yourself on the road – an anti-pollution mask.