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Air pollution, doctors urge people to keep lungs healthy

Amid poor air quality levels in Delhi-NCR, health experts on World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Day on Wednesday stressed the need to keep lungs healthy. The National Capital and surrounding cities of Noida, Greater Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurugram, and Faridabad have been facing severe air pollution for the last 2-3 weeks.

Despite a ban on firecrackers and appeals for eco-friendly celebrations, massive Diwali fireworks intensified the pollution in the region, releasing particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide. On Tuesday evening, the overall Air Quality Index (AQI) was recorded at 370 in Delhi, according to data from the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR).

World COPD is marked every year on November 15. The theme this year — Breathing is Life – Act Earlier — focuses on the significance of early diagnosis, management, and frontline interventions to maintain healthy lungs. COPD is a progressive lung condition encompassing chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

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It is characterized by inflamed and narrowed airways leading to increased mucus production, as well as damage to the lung’s air sacs. COPD also results in symptoms like chronic cough, phlegm, shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness.

“It is a pity that despite a ban on firecrackers and an appeal to switch to green crackers, massive fireworks on Diwali made the situation more alarming. Firecrackers release various pollutants, including particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and carbon monoxide (CO). While cigarette smoking is a primary risk factor, prolonged exposure to air pollutants contributes significantly to COPD,” Dr. (Col) Vijay Dutta, Director, of Internal Medicine and Respiratory Services, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, New Delhi, told IANS.

“COPD is emerging as an independent risk factor for future heart disease. We strongly recommend improving lung health by ensuring lifestyle changes, quitting smoking, and gathering support within the public to raise voices against this menace of air pollution,” added Dr. Animesh Arya, Senior Consultant- Pulmonology at Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute.

According to recent research published in ‘The Lancet’, COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide and it caused 3.3 million deaths in 2019, with China recording the highest toll, followed by India and the US.

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