Ghaziabad, 26th October 2017: Previous years trends did not inspire much hope of a healthy festival of lights this year as well. As fireworks lighted the city on Diwali night, the objective of a green Diwali in the region went up in smoke. With toxic air fuelled by Diwali crackers and the onset of winter conditions engulfing the city over the past week, Ghaziabad residents, especially children and old people, are reporting increasing incidence of respiratory disorders such as breathlessness, wheezing and cough.
Doctors at Columbia Asia Hospitals, say that while air quality is never too good in the city, thanks to intense vehicular pollution, Diwali festivities have worsened the situation with each passing year. Children and old people are majorly impacted as they find it very difficult to cope with poor air quality, say doctors. “We have seen a significant spike in people reporting with respiratory problems over this week. Common complaints include cough and breathlessness. It is well known that lighting fireworks releases a toxic mixture of gasses which include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and even manganese and cadmium particles in the atmosphere. This means city residents are practically inhaling poisonous air, which is severely affecting their lung health. No surprise, our pulmonary department is overflowing with patients,” said Dr. Gyan Bharati, Pulmonologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad.
Invariably, combustion of fireworks deteriorates environmental conditions every year after Diwali due to the bursting of crackers. Usually it appears that pollution has cleared in a few days after Diwali, but due to onset of winter and other environmental factors, the pollution caused around this time takes around 4 months to dissipate and therefore increases prolonged exposure to these gasses.
“While every individual is affected by bad air quality, the most badly affected are children. Children are more active than adults and therefore their intake of air in to lungs is higher, and their lungs are also not fully developed till late teens. Children’s ability to filter out or detoxify environmental agents and pollution is different. Also, in kids airway epithelium is more permeable than in adults, which makes them more vulnerable to diseases. The airway epithelium is the first defense against respiratory viruses and pollutants. On a daily basis we are seeing several children as young as 4 years old who are sick because of inhaling toxic air. The use of nebulizers is very high in children of polluted cities like ours today,” adds Dr. Sanjay Sharma, Consultant Paediatrician, Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad.
With winter conditions also setting in, the dust and particulate material from vehicular pollution and smoke from crackers is hanging over the city sky, creating choking smog like conditions. The dangerous mix of pollutants in our air also increases risk of lung cancer, much like smoking cigarette toxins does. For children who grow up in highly polluted cities like Delhi, the impact of this dangerous air can be catastrophic on their undeveloped lungs and respiratory systems. “Most people who see us today have lung conditions similar to those prevalent in chain smokers. The distinction between smokers and non-smokers is diminishing because everybody is inhaling air as toxic as several cigarettes a day,” added Dr. Gyan Bharati, Pulmonologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad.
For people residing in the city and specially for their children, it is essential to take some short and long term measures:
- Adults should note the daily air quality index of the city for a week after Diwali, and if pollution levels tend to exceed over 200 mcg/m3, children should not be sent outdoors.
- Children should not be allowed to venture outside for playing and other activities. Make your kids wear quality air masks whenever they step outside at least for a week post Diwali.
- It is important that indoor air is kept clean and pollution free. Lighting firecrackers in the balconies or porch should be avoided. Keep windows and doors closed on Diwali night for preventing toxic gasses from entering inside.
- Encourage kids to drink a lot of water during this period. Water helps flushing out toxins from the system.
- Increase the intake of anti-oxidants rich diet which includes fruits and vegetables. They help in boosting vitamins in the body and its immune system.