Pollution a health issue, not just an environment problem: Experts

NEW DELHI: Pollution should be seen as a serious health issue, rather than just as an environmental problem, according to experts who today called for immediate action to reduce the impact of pollution on people’s well being.

In a briefing on the findings of the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health held here today, researchers highlighted the huge economic burden and health costs that pollution poses for India as well as countries around the world.

“We tend to look at pollution as an environmental problem, rather than a health problem,” said Karti Sandilya, one of the authors of the Lancet study.

“We tend to look at pollution as an environmental problem, rather than a health problem,” said Karti Sandilya, one of the authors of the Lancet study.

The Commission had last month published a report which found that pollution caused over nine million deaths worldwide in 2015 – accounting for 16 per cent of the deaths worldwide.

The report found that India had the world’s highest number of deaths due to air, water and other forms of pollution in 2015.

Pollution killed as many as 2.5 million people in India, highlighting that pollution disproportionately affects the poor.

Jairam Ramesh, Member of Parliament and former Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, noted that the series of international studies published in the last few years, only serves to reinforce the high impact of environmental pollution on mortality and morbidity in India.

“The country wakes up only if something happens in Delhi,” said Ramesh, who was also one of the authors of the Lancet study.

He emphasised on the need to look beyond New Delhi and recognise that air pollution and particulate matter is only one aspect of the issue.

The report found that 1.8 million deaths were due to water pollution, 1.1 million deaths were attributed to soil pollution. As many as 2.9 million deaths occurred due to indoor air pollution.

The study aims to dispel the myth that pollution is an inevitable consequence of development, said Mukesh Khare, from Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) Delhi.

“I don’t think India needs to pollute its way to development,” added Ramesh.

The researchers lauded the governments effort to boost the use of solar energy and curb the growth of coal-based power plants.

Khare noted that pollution-linked diseases caused global welfare losses of USD 4.6 trillion or 6 per cent of global GDP.

The study also noted that pollution causes productivity losses, and can reduce the GDP by upto 2 per cent.

“It may not sound like a lot, but for lower income countries like India, this represents a huge loss,” said William Suk, from the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

While welcoming more such research on health impact of pollution, Ramesh said that there is an urgent need to spend equal amount of time on finding and implementing remediation techniques to tackle all forms of pollution.

“Unfortunately, not just the government but even the common people are living in denial,” said Arvind Kumar, a doctor at the Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi.

“I have seen a change in the colour of lungs over the last 30 years – turning from pink to black,” said Kumar.

Kumar said that lungs of non-smokers in New Delhi have begun to resemble the lungs of regular smokers, and it is high time that appropriate policy changes are implemented.

Source: Economic Times

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