Bad air left Mumbai sick and doctors alarmed

The city has seen an increase in cases of colds, headaches, throat infections, persistent dry coughs and difficulty breathing. These, according to doctors, could have a lasting impact on human health.

“Outpatient department visits for problems with difficulty breathing and dry cough have doubled in the past two weeks,” Dr. Salil Bendre, chief of pulmonology and pulmonary medicine at Nanavati Max Super Specialty Hospital, told BQ Premium. “We’re also seeing around 5% hospitalizations among patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, as they face increased problems.”

A haze of dust and smoke – more identified with northern Indian cities during winter – now hangs over Mumbai as construction and multiple infrastructure projects have added to industrial pollution. The change in wind patterns could also have contributed to the decline in air quality by affecting the “natural cleaning mechanism of the city”, wrote Dr. Gufran Beig, founding project director, SAFAR, the initiative government based health advisory research, in the Indian Express. . Whatever the cause, doctors are worried.

According to Dr. Prashant Chhajed, Senior Consultant in Respirology and Pulmonary Medicine at Nanavati Max, the number of people complaining of coughs, sore throats and headaches has increased over the past month. Patients take longer to recover, the doctor said, because the cause is multifactorial. “There has been an increase in pollution, seasonal variations or climate change, and an increase in viral respiratory tract infections.”

Nearly 25-30% of intensive care patients have currently been hospitalized due to acute respiratory conditions, Dr. Kedar Toraskar, consultant in intensive care and pulmonology at Wockhardt Hospital in South Mumbai, told BQ. Prime. “In particular, patients with COPD, asthma, and interstitial lung disease have respiratory failure and require intensive care in the form of noninvasive or invasive ventilation,” he said.

“After the Omicron wave, and over the last three months, Covid cases are almost negligible. However, there has been an increase in cases of influenza A (H3N2), followed by swine flu (H1N1), respiratory syncytial and adenovirus infections, In addition, the dry cough that used to last two to three days in winter now lasts more than a month, which is attributed to postviral bronchiolitis,” Dr. Toraskar said.

“People in extreme age groups – pediatrics or children and people aged 65 and over – suffer more and are prone to complications.”

Pollution damages health and wreaks havoc on the lungs, said Dr Sanjeev Mehta, consultant in chest, allergy and sleep medicine at Lilavati and Arogya Nidhi hospitals in Mumbai. “There is no return from the damage he causes.”

Over the past two months, Mumbai’s AQI has deteriorated and even fallen below that of Delhi on some occasions, Dr Mehta said.

Dr Toraskar highlighted how the exponential construction and metro plans that have been underway for the past four to five years have impacted Mumbai’s air quality. Industries located within the city limits and the season also compounded the pollution problem.

Some of the pollution-related health issues identified by Dr. Mehta:

  • India has the unfortunate status of having a very high number of COPD cases and consequent deaths, which are also among the highest in the world.

  • Post-Covid, asthma and COPD patients present increasing health problems. This appears to be correlated with increased activity and pollution.

  • Pollution like smoking affects the growing lung. Long-term exposure of growing children to smoke and pollution can weaken the lungs. Additionally, pregnant women exposed to smoke and pollution could potentially give birth to babies with affected lungs. Those affected are at a higher risk of developing COPD and lung-related health problems.

  • A study he conducted showed poor lung function in what would otherwise be a young, healthy population that is not smoking or exposed to biomass. “This makes us think that pollution could be playing a negative role in the health of these people.”

With each passing generation, according to Dr. Mehta, health, especially lung capacity, deteriorates due to exposure to pollutants.

Long exposure to pollution would leave a lasting impact on lung function, according to Dr. Toraskar. “Lung function progressively deteriorates with each infectious or non-infectious exacerbation.”

Chronic exposure to pollution could lead to the development of chronic bronchitis which can cause heart disease and increase the risk of stroke and cancer, said Nanavati Max’s Dr Chhajed.

Wear masks for prevention and get a flu shot to protect yourself against the flu if eligible, Dr Chhajed advised. Additionally, people with chronic lung conditions should continue to take their medications regularly, he said.

While Dr. Mehta suggests avoiding smoking and reducing exposure to pollutants – smoke, dust and biomass to protect the lungs in particular, the developing ones.

According to Dr Toraskar, the threat of air pollution should be tackled more actively by environmental activists and government agencies. Limiting construction activities and replacing old polluting trucks and transport vehicles should be undertaken by the government, he said.

Aiming for fully electric vehicles in the near future will also go a long way to significantly improving our air quality index.

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