The United Nation Environment Assembly meet held at Nairobi last week said there could be 7 million more deaths due to rising pollution levels, causing a global public health emergency. Doctors in the city say vehicular pollution is a leading cause of heart disorders. Though industrial emission is largely responsible for air pollution, it is the emission from vehicles that affects people more because of its proximity. The city has over 80 lakh motor vehicles plying on the roads that emit an estimated 1,500 tonnes of pollutants per day.

A study by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information in 2014 said pollution, especially ambient air pollution, particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and nitrogen dioxide caused cardio vascular disorders. Particulate Matter mainly consists of soot, carbon and other micro particles of 2.5 millimetres or less sizes that can enter the lungs and then travel into the blood vessels.

Vehicles are the second largest emitter of PM 2.5 and this was the fifth highest factor causing deaths according to the State of Global Air Report, 2017. The report says 1.094 lakh deaths in India were caused by vehicular pollution. Dr Bharath of Apollo Hospital said that in the last one-and-a-half years, he had seen at least two middle-aged patients with no history or risk factors of hypertension or diabetes getting a heart attack. “The only thing they had in common was that they drove 25-30 km daily and were inhaling the smoke and carbon monoxide,” he said.

Carbon monoxide triggers free radicals in the blood stream which is the primary cause of cancer. These free radicals enter the blood membrane and create a block, causing a heart attack. While the link between health and pollution has not been medically established, doctors said the difference was apparent when compared to the rural population. “It may not be proven that pollution causes a heart attack. But it’s apparent, when you compare the health of people in villages to those in the cities, there is a clear indication that city pollution is a major factor to increased health risk”, said Dr M.S.S Mukherjee, cardiologist.

He said that chemicals in pollutants oxidised LDL cholesterol, creating deposits which get into the arteries of the heart and create a block. The other way is through smoke from pollution can also block the airways. The right side of the heart that pumps blood into the airways has excess pressure and over a period of time it may malfunction or even fail.

Source: Jun 29, 2017,