During the coronavirus lockdown phase between March to July with suspended transportation and industrial work, the air
and its quality has highly improved. The skies over its polluted cities rapidly turned a bright blue and the air
unusually clean and fresh. But as always the winter months have started covering the country in its pollution's grip. Since last week it’s a relief that the daily case count has significantly dropped still the fact of the matter is that we can’t let our guard down. While winter is fast
approaching, pollution levels are rising. According to WHO, almost 7 million deaths are caused worldwide due to air pollution. But this year the number is going to reach its great zenith with the existing pandemic crisis. Various experts and researchers have found a link between
pandemic and air pollution's mortality rate which is quite astonishing.
Studies and Researches
Director Gen of ICMR, Dr. Balram Bhargava stated that “Long term exposure to the air pollutants can be lethal while the short term one can increase the risk of acute lung infection.” His statement was backed up by the studies of various organizations.
Harvard University, US believes that chronic exposure to PM 2.5 may cause lungs to malfunction, the organ which the virus uses to enter host cells. Also, its prolonged exposure may impair the immune system of an individual.
Another study based on Covid -19 data of the U.S showed that just by an increase of one microgram per cubic meter could results in death's risks due to pandemic by 11%. Another study showed that areas having more pollution with people suffering from the more respiratory disease are more prone to such outcomes. It’s believed that around 15% of the deaths worldwide from Covid -19 could be attributed to long term exposure to air pollution.
How dangerous is PM 2.5?
After inhaling the polluted air which mainly has 2.5 PM air pollutant, this particle enter from the lungs to the blood vessels causing inflammation, damaging the interior lining of arteries. The same disorders are caused by Coronavirus causing similar damage to blood vessels. So its quite obvious that both exposure to air pollution and infection would be more vulnerable to health risks.
The current scenario
Talking about the scenario in India, Doctors and epidemiologists have long warned that toxic air will only hamper India's fight against the virus. India now has the world's second-highest caseload and the third-highest death toll from the virus but experts say worsening AQI(Air quality index) will result in more tolls. India's 13 cities feature on a list of ‘World's 20 most Polluted Cities' of the world. So the problem for India is going to get worse. More than a million Indians die every year because of air pollution.
Last winter air pollution reached more than 20 times the WHO's safe limit. Delhi's air is likely to worsen in the next few months most probably after the Diwali celebration in the country. The air here is especially bad in winters (November to February) when several factors – farmers burning crop stubble to clear the fields, vehicular and industrial pollution, festive fireworks and low wind speed – contribute to what doctors say is a & quot; deadly cocktail of poisonous gases & quot;
Measures to tackle the problem
Now when we know the adversities due to this deadly combination; what we require are preventive measures. Of course, every individual can’t develop a vaccine against the virus we have to wait for it. But we can go for simple baby steps on an individual level to at least control its drastic effects.
1.Basic guidelines for protection from COVID-19 like regularly
washing hands, maintaining physical distancing, and wearing a
mask at all times should be executed every time.
2. Instead of just wearing a ‘mask’, ' good quality masks
with proper nose covering ' should be considered as 85% to
90% transmission is through the air.