Whilst much attention has been paid to air quality in Delhi, the issue is far from isolated to the Capital, affecting swathes of the country and blighting the health of millions. In Bihar state capital Patna, pollution is taking a significant toll on public health with the city witnessing a rise in lung disease cases.
In the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS), additional professor of pulmonary medicine Dr Manish Shankar reports a surge in lung disease cases between thirty and forty percent. The spurt of illnesses such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is attributable to the city’s declining air quality. “This is because they are suffering from air-related [problems],” Shankar said, adding “[antibiotics] will not help in such cases.”
On Tuesday, the Air Quality Index (AQI) reading for Patna stood at 414, the third worst in the country behind Kanpur and Lucknow, both in Uttar Pradesh. This was a sharp deterioration from previous days. On Monday, the city’s AQI score was 382. On Sunday, it stood at 413.
Air pollution throughout India has been linked to rising rates of numerous respiratory illnesses. Between fifteen and twenty million people live with asthma in India. The country is considered the COPD capital of the world. Cases rose from 28.1 million in 1990 to 55.3 million in 2016. COPD accounted for thirteen percent of deaths in India according to research published in 2018. Lung cancer, which affects two million Indians each year and accounts for ten percent of cancer-related deaths in the country, is spreading rapidly among non-smokers. The country’s escalating pollution crisis is being pinpointed as the reason behind these trends.
Patna serves to highlight this. “One cannot stop breathing, but inhaling obnoxious air with particulate matters regularly will lead to severe health [hazards],” comments Dr Diwakar Tejaswi. “As of now, there has been [an] unprecedented rise in COPD, asthma, irritability in [the] eyes, brain and nasal mucosa cases.” Going forward, he adds, “one must plant trees and focus on environment protection because that will only help us in the long run.”