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Issue 43
, 2013
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Pollution: A slow poison

Source: The Hindu, Date: , 2013

With neither Delhi’s air nor its noise pollution levels registering a healthy trend in the recent past, on World Environment Day city doctors and health experts have warned about the major health hazards that the city people – especially children -- could be exposing themselves to because of the constant exposure to the oppressively high pollution levels.

“The background noise in Delhi has registered a steep rise all over the city, with areas including Dwarka and Vasant Kunj -- which has high density residential colonies -- clocking pollution levels much higher than what is allowed,” said JPN Hospital’s Centre for Occupational and Environment Health director T. K. Joshi.

“What is worse is the fact that nowhere in Delhi is the noise pollution level in sync with the prescribed or allowed levels. Even in the middle of the night -- which has to be the quietest time of the day -- the Capital continues to be noisy. In Delhi even a no-noise-pollution zone is not spared,” said Dr. Joshi.

He added that while the residents of Dwarka and Vasant Kunj (where a study was undertaken by the Centre) had written to senior Government officials about the high level of noise pollution in the area, there hasn’t been much improvement in the situation.

“Being exposed to high levels of noise pollution is a slow poison – besides the obvious effect on hearing ability, high noise levels also cause heart diseases and blood pressure related problems. The effect it will have on children is still not documented completely but it is well known that children and adolescents are the worst hit. The most visible and immediate effect of being exposed to high levels of noise pollution is the rise in road rage and the profound irritability that many in Delhi complain about,” noted Dr. Joshi.

So while the noise levels continue to rise in the city without adequate checks and balances, air quality too is being compromised with The Energy and Resources Institute’s latest Environment Survey – 2013 stating that “while in the last 10 years, the levels of sulphur dioxide has reduced from 14 micrograms per cubic metre in 2001 to 5 micrograms per cubic metre in 2010, the levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter with aerodynamics diameter less than 10 micrograms have increased substantially from 29 and 120 micrograms per cubic metre respectively in 2001 to 55 and 261 micrograms per cubic metre respectively in 2010”.

“Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health and by taking measures to reduce air pollution levels we can help the city reduce the burden of diseases from respiratory infections, heart diseases and lung cancer. In the Environment Survey, 40 per cent Delhiites accepted that the air quality in the city is getting worse,” noted the survey.

Delhi Medical Association member Dr. Anil Bansal concurred: “We are definitely seeing a larger number of patients with lung diseases and skin infections that seem to be related to rising air pollution. The city is particularly getting worse for people with asthma and younger children who come in with reoccurring lung infections and skin problems (more stubborn rashes and boils). Hospitals have also registered a large increase in the number of patients with eye ailments and various kinds of flu/ fever which we suspect are related to being exposed to polluted air, consuming contaminated water and having to cope with extreme temperatures (very hot summers and cold winters).”

Meanwhile, high levels of pollution apart, the weather department has forecast that city dwellers will have to tolerate yet another (but probably the last bout) of high temperatures (ranging between 42-46 degree Celsius) this week.

Regional Meteorological Centre Deputy Director General (Meteorology) O. P. Singh said: “The day temperature is likely to increase from Tuesday onwards. The maximum temperature is likely to increase by 2-3 degrees Celsius this week. It will be in the range of 42-44 degrees C during June 5 to 9.”

“This week will be warmer than the preceding week with the temperature peaking on Thursday. This may be the last warm spell over Delhi/NCR during the current summer season. Rains are expected after this spell,” Dr. Singh added.