The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had classified the Indian capital as having “very unhealthy” air meaning everyone must avoid outdoor activities and exercise. The real-time air quality index shows that the air quality has decreased considerably and is labeled as ‘hazardous”.
It does not take rocket science to understand that air pollution is bad for health. Exposure to unhealthy and polluted air affects our lungs (respiratory system) causing many chronic diseases. Therefore it is important to protect our children and vulnerable from exposure to air pollutants and tackle the problem before it is too late.
What are the health problems caused by Air Pollution?
India is one of the most thickly populated countries in the world. It is not just in terms of people. The traffic in the world’s largest democracy is rated as one of the worst due to the emissions the engines pump on a daily basis. Added to that more than half of the Indian population does not have access to clean fuels or technologies.According to a report by the World Health Organization 9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air. The health effects due to air pollution are serious, chronic, and hazardous. One-third of the deaths from stroke, lung cancer, and heart disease are due to air pollution.
It is hard to escape the ill effects of air pollution as micropollutants slip past our body defenses and get lodged in our lungs, heart, and brain.
Some of the common ailments caused by air pollution are asthma, chronic bronchitis, allergy, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), lung cancer, stroke, and many more.
It must also be noted that Children and Senior Citizens are most vulnerable to the side effects of air pollution. The body's defenses are still not mature to fight the harmful effects of carcinogens and pollutants in children. As a person ages, immunity decreases making older adults an easy target for health diseases due to air pollution.
What are the consequences of Air Pollution health effects?
The Children's Health Study (CHS) done in Southern California, studied the long-term effects of air pollution on the respiratory system of 12,000 children. The findings of the study, which can be applied worldwide, are -
- Increase school absences due to short-term respiratory infections
- Children with an appetite for outdoor activities are prone to develop asthma
- Children living near polluted, traffic-congested roads develop asthma at a younger age
- Asthmatic children exposed to continuous air pollution are likely to develop chronic bronchitis
- Chronic exposure to air pollution will eventually lead to lung damage
On Women and Children
- Continuous breathing of particulate matter 2.5 will alter the child’s developing brain ultimately leading to cognitive and emotional problems at a later stage
- Exposure to air pollutants in pregnant women is associated with brain development effects causing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and low birth weight
- Exposure to air pollutants during 4-9 months of pregnancy can lead to children having high blood pressure early in life
On Older Adults
- A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives provides considerable evidence that exposure to air pollutants will increase the risk of dementia
- There is a greater chance of developing Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer's Disease (AD), and other dementias among older people exposed to the harmful effects of air pollution
How can ancient Indian medicines help in combating air pollution's health effects?
“Prevention is Better than Cure” - everyone has heard this before. This is the only mantra we have to tackle the health problem of air pollution. There are many Ayurveda remedies that have proven to be effective in the long run to combat the side effects of air pollution.
There are many natural plant-based products taken in their pure form that can help people of all ages to develop immunity and resistance against the health hazards of air pollution. Some of them are
● Turmeric - This is one of the most versatile spices that anyone can have in their pantry. Taken in any form turmeric helps fight bacteria and boosts immunity
● Neem: Neem trees trap gaseous materials and dust. This property has been utilized to tackle the health effects of air pollution. Neem is an excellent detoxifying agent and will help purify the body in the long term.
● Tulasi or Basil Leaves: Having a Tulasi concoction regularly supplies a high amount of oxygen thereby reducing the chances of developing respiratory ailments and cancer.
There is without a question, air pollution has detrimental effects on health and it affects people in all age groups. Although there are a lot more things to be done at national and international levels to reduce air pollution there is no foreseeable solution now. The only way we as individuals can do this is to protect ourselves and the health of our loved ones by taking preventive steps. Ayurveda in its purest form has been shown to help people develop immunity and resistance against the impurities present in the environment.
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