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Your Health And Environmental Health: 2 Sides Of The Same Coin

Globally air pollution is responsible for 6.7% of all deaths and 7.6% of DALY’s lost. In India, 0.59 and 0.92 million deaths annually are due to Household and Ambient Air Pollution respectively

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During a session on the Effects of Human Health at the Enviro-Health Conference 2017 organized by Indraprastha Vigyan Bharati at Prithvi Bhawan, Ministry of Earth Sciences, various impacts of environmental pollution on human health were discussed.

Respiratory Diseases

Dr Arun Sharma Professor and Head, Community Medicine, University of Delhi, University College of Medical Sciences highlighted the respiratory problems borne due to pollution. “Small-scale industries contribute 12% of air pollution which is not restricted to Delhi, as smaller towns of Durg, Bhilai, Raipur show very high levels of PM 2.5 and carcinogens. Several diseases are caused due to pollution- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Lung Cancer, Bronchial Asthma Pneumonia, Premature mortality, pneumoconiosis, asbestosis, silicosis and so on. We have to look at long lasting sustained impacts of exposure to air pollution. It depends on the composition of Pm2.5, not concentration.” He also went on to add, “Chronic respiratory diseases not only shorten lives but also deteriorate the quality of life, productivity and so on. Globally air pollution is responsible for 6.7% of all deaths and 7.6% of DALY’s lost. In India, 0.59 and 0.92 million deaths annually are due to Household and Ambient Air Pollution respectively. We are yet to find out the actual prevalence of COPD in the country, as the data is only available for selected places. People who are not using LPD fuel, or using solid fuels, their chances of developing COPD is 2.5 times higher.” “Hospitalization due to respiratory diseases increases by 1.07 to 2.82 times due to PM 2.5. Risk of COPD is 17 times higher for smokers, so it's not certain whether its prevalence is due to atmospheric conditions of habits. The Economic impact of respiratory diseases is extremely high, more than USD 10,000 million in 2015. There is a need to track and map where COPD prevalence is higher, to see the degree of impact of PM 2.5 levels”, he said.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Prof Uma Kumar (Department of Rheumatology, AIIMS) said, “Over the period of years world incidence and prevalence of autoimmune diseases is increasing, especially rheumatic diseases. Autoimmunity is a loss of discrimination of self from non-self. Air pollution affects immunity, affects B cells and T cells, and affects antigenic cells. Rheumatoid arthritis and air pollution have a link according to many studies”. She also added, “Air pollution modulates the immune system and creates pro-inflammatory state. Air pollution does have an impact on the prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis despite patients being on drugs, as per many statistical studies and correlations. People staying nearer main road have more chances of developing auto-antibodies and developing inflammatory markers. We are trying to link air pollution, inflammation and autoimmunity”.

Eye diseases and pollution

“Ozone and other compounds found in smog can cause your eyes to water and sting. Any atmospheric pollutants, and when their concentrations are beyond required levels affect ocular health adversely”, said Prof M Vanathi (Professor of Ophthalmology, AIIMS). She also added, “Environment has a significant role in causing dry eye. Dry eye is a multifactorial disease which results in symptoms of discomfort, visual disturbance and tear film instability. Air pollution, temperature and humidity act as a whole to cause damage in ocular health and cause dry eye. Dry eye can be recognized by redness, irritation, watering, ropy discharge, itching sensation and allergy, visual blur and inability to open eyes and infection risk.” She added, “Do not splash water into eyes, use lubricating eye drops, wear goggles, avoid contact lenses and eye mak-up and see an ophthalmologist for dry-eye”

Reproductive Health and Pollution

Dr Mamta Dagar (Department of Gynaecology, Gangaram Hospital) said, ”Environmental toxicants are playing as hidden players in the human reproductive health, affecting it negatively. Pre-natal deaths can be caused by exposure to air pollutants during pregnancy. Various stages where endocrine disrupting chemicals can affect reproductive health. There are reproductive health impacts of exposure to toxic environmental chemicals”. She also added, “Impaired cognitive and neurodevelopment, increase in attention problems and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder behaviour is an adverse health outcome linked with preconception and prenatal exposure to environmental pollutants. A global perspective is needed to ensure equity and health for all. Policies that address toxic chemicals must protect the environment to sustain the potential of human existence over years. “

Impact of pollution on gastrointestinal tract

“Research on airborne pollutants has mostly focused on cardiovascular and respiratory effects. But there is evidence that it affects the gastro-intestinal tract as well. Inhaled PM through mucociliary transport are quickly cleared from the lungs and into the intestine”, said Dr Anil Arora (Department of Gastroenterology, Gangaram Hospital). He added, “Particulate matter contaminates both our food and water supply in significant amounts. All larger particles are quickly cleared from the lungs and transported to the intestine. Particulate matter has been proven to alter the gut microbiota and make it less diverse. Ambient air pollution correlates with hospitalizations for inflammatory bowel disease.” He also added, “Bowel cancer, appendicitis, bowel infections and IBD are other harmful effects on gut due to particulate matter. Food adulteration and contamination is another cause for gut diseases due to particulate matter.”

Silent killer: Radiation and Geopathic Stress Zones

Shri Pranav Poddar (Director, Environics) said, “Some factors affecting health are water, indoor air quality and radiation. 30% of our environment is unfit for human habitation. 20% of our homes and offices have geopathic stress zones (earth’s natural radiation stress zones). Levels of Electromagnetic Radiation have increased by 100 times in the last 15 years.” Speaking of his work, he said, “Environics is an innovative practice that creates healthy and productive workplaces for employees. Environics is concerned with the development of healthy buildings. A survey done in 1989 by Kathe Bachelor found that there is a 100% correlation between geopathic stress zones and prevalence of cancer. Higher road accidents are also caused due to geopathic stress zones as per a study in Pune”. He also added, “Excessive use of mobile phones computer etc. are a cause of a lot of problems to human health due to man-made radiations.”

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