Delhi air quality survey: 70% of respondents or their families affected


Nearly 70% of respondents or their family members are facing breathing difficulty due to poor air quality in Delhi and the surrounding areas, says a survey.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) in most parts of Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR) has turned “severe” with incidents of stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh serving as a key driver for pollution. Other contributors include vehicular pollution, pollution due to crackers during Diwali, etc.

To understand how residents are feeling the impact of toxic air and the measures being taken, online community platform LocalCircles conducted a survey that received over 26,000 responses from residents of Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurugram and Faridabad. Of the respondents, 65% were men and 35% women.

The first question in the survey attempted to understand the impact of toxic air on the people and it asked the respondents, “Who in your family are impacted by bad air quality in the Delhi-NCR?”

Nearly 70 per cent of respondents have one or more family members or they themselves are feeling the impact. Out of 9,123 respondents to this question, 30 per cent indicated “elderly parents/ grandparents at home” were already impacted, in 10 per cent families school going children are feeling unwell; 20 per cent are themselves impacted due to their health conditions; there are another 10 per cent were not well though they have no pre-existing medical conditions.

Only 30 per cent of the respondents indicated that they and their family are facing no health issues due to poor air quality in Delhi-NCR.

To a question on plans to cope up with the deteriorating air quality in the next three weeks, 9 per cent indicated they will use anti-pollution masks; 21 per cent would use air purifiers at home, while 14 per cent plan to increase consumption of immunity boosting foods.

The survey data shows that 42 per cent of respondents are planning to increase consumption of immunity boosting foods; 37 per cent are relying on anti-pollution masks to safeguard their health; while 35 per cent are banking on air purifiers at home to keep out ill effects of air pollution.

At the end of the day, these safety measures can only provide limited protection to the over 32 million population of Delhi-NCR.

Many families who have senior citizens or young children try to get away from Delhi-NCR to escape the toxic air. As many as 27 per cent respondents indicated that they plan to get away from Delhi-NCR.

Experts said long term exposure to pollutants can lead to chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, pneumonia, and even heart diseases. It can also lead to central nervous system dysfunctions.

The intensity and the occurrence of these diseases varies from individual to individual depending on their existing health condition, age and sex. It also depends on the lifestyle of the individuals.

A September 2022 study published in the Lancet said increasing air pollution levels increases the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and cancers of the mouth and throat.

Another study by the UK’s Francis Crick Institute and University College London found that people regularly exposed to higher levels of PM2.5 air pollution were at increased risk of epidermal growth factor receptor mutant lung cancer and other cancers.

A 2016 study by IIT Kanpur, Delhi Pollution Control Committee and Department of Environment, NCT Delhi found that road dust accounts for more than 50% of the air pollution in the city.

“The most health-harmful pollutants – closely associated with excessive premature mortality – are fine PM2.5 particles that penetrate deep into lung passageways,” warned the WHO.

Doctors in Delhi hospitals have said they have started getting more patients with exacerbation of respiratory conditions such as asthma, respiratory infections, heart attacks and stroke.

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