A collective of doctors working on health impacts of air pollution has warned that people living regions with high levels of air pollution and with compromised lung function could be more vulnerable to the impacts of coronavirus (COVID19).
Doctors For Clean Air (DFCA) has warned that compromised lung function due to air pollution could lead to serious complications in patients affected by the COVID19 pandemic.
Exposure to air pollution makes one more vulnerable to infections: DFCA
“Exposure to air pollution in the long term reduces the capacity of organs to function fully and makes it more vulnerable to infections and diseases. In the context of the current COVID19 pandemic, such individuals are likely to face severe complications”, said DFCA.
There are so far no proven links between air pollution and COVID19 mortality. However, previous strains of coronavirus like SARS have known to cause higher deaths in regions with high levels of air pollution.
A study, which appeared in Environmental Health: A Global Access Service Source, compared SARS death rates and air pollution levels in five different regions of China between April and May 2003, when the majority of SARS cases were diagnosed.
SARS death rates increased as pollution levels increased: Study
Researchers found that SARS death rates increased as pollution levels increased, ranging from about 4% in regions with low air pollution to 7.5% and 9% in regions with moderate or high air pollution levels, respectively.
DFCA has asked the members of the public, especially those who live in polluted urban centers and those who have pre-existing conditions of lung or heart diseases, to take extra precautions of maintaining hygiene, social distancing and immediately seeking medical help in case they show symptoms of cold, fever and breathlessness.
Government should formulate long-term plans to reduce air pollution
DFCA has also urged the Government to formulate long-term plans to reduce air pollution in the country. It has sought for stricter enforcements of thermal power plant emission norms, regulation of emissions from diesel and petrol vehicles and strict enforcement of construction and solid waste norms so that the sources of air pollution can be tackled.
“The only way for India to fight COVID19 or future pandemics would be if it’s the environment is protected. This pandemic as made us realize the value for clean air and this should be a key lesson going forward in building resilience in our country”, added DFCA.
Air pollution is one of India’s biggest killers
Every year, 12 lakh Indians die from breathing poor quality air. Air pollution is one of India’s biggest killers. Globally, outdoor air pollution caused three million premature deaths in 2012 – roughly the same as the toll from malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined.
Pollution affects our health throughout the life course, with evidence of links to cancer, asthma, stroke, heart diseases, etc. In Delhi, one in every 4 children has irreversible lung damage.
This crisis is costing India 3% of its GDP annually. Despite these consequences, 92 % of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed the WHO’s guidelines.