The scourge of air pollution and topics in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
In November of 2017, clouds of smog smothered New Delhi; in some parts of the city, the Air Quality Index shot over 999 and particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) index reached over 700 μg/m3 (both measures several fold the upper limits of acceptability as defined by the World Health Organization). Thousands of schools were closed. Citizens were warned to remain indoors. This dire situation prompted the chief minister of the state to compare the New Delhi atmosphere to a ‘gas chamber.’ Air quality in many big cities in India has been worsening over the years because of factors that include rapid industrialization and a large increase in motorized vehicles. Rural India faces separate threats to air quality. Women in particular, are subject to indoor air pollution from commonly used nongaseous cooking fuels (wood, dung, crop residues). There are other factors – such as the burning of residual crops to prepare farms for the next crop and the exuberant use of firecrackers and fireworks to celebrate festivals – that are seasonal. Apart from its acute respiratory effects, air pollution causes increased morbidity and mortality because of chronic respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease. An estimated 6000 deaths per day are attributable to air pollution in India.