New Delhi: Every year the third Wednesday of November is observed as COPD Day, the day seeks to raise awareness on the condition, risk factors and the importance of a pollution-free environment for a healthy life. This year COPD rightly declares the theme “Healthy Lungs – Never More Important” as the COVID 19 infection has not only wreaked havoc on the environment and human lives but has also compromised the health of our lungs so its time to heal them Certainly now before it is too late.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a broad term for a range of progressive lung diseases. Any form of lung damage can result in a number of problems, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The bad news is that lung cancer is a condition that is not reversible and there is no treatment option available. Lifestyle changes and medical interventions can help patients avoid flare-ups and improve their quality of life.
Children especially premature babies, and people with weakened immune systems and asthma are at a higher risk of developing COPD at a later stage of life. According to the World Health Organisation, every day around 93% of the world’s children under the age of 15 (1.8 billion children) breathe air that is so polluted that it puts their health and development at serious risk. WHO estimates that in 2016, 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air. The Delhi government’s recent order to close primary schools in Delhi as the AQI dropped to alarming levels has brought back the environmental concern of clean and safe air and the debate on finding permanent solutions to the problem of pollution. Instead of opting for short-term knee-jerk solutions, it is imperative that we ensure long-term sustainable solutions to the growing problem of pollution.
The adverse health effects of air pollution is an urgent public health concern in the country and the government must address this concern in the most effective manner. Industrial emissions are the major contributors to air pollution in India, followed by vehicular combustion and then domestic emissions and crop waste burning in rural areas. With Indian metros topping the list of most polluted cities in the world, this problem can no longer be ignored. The government has already taken remarkable steps when it comes to environmental degradation – from promoting river cleaning drives to banning the use of plastic, the government has time and again shown its commitment to environmental causes. However, the issue of air pollution has not been effectively redressed and the resulting damage is a threat to our lungs – an organ that processes life with every breath. Hence healthy lungs are a non-negotiable aspect of a healthy body and non-toxic and safe air plays a vital role in ensuring strong and healthy lungs.
Policy reforms should be initiated to ensure that environmental concerns are given priority over financial and commercial benefits. If the government is able to look for sustainable alternatives in a well planned and coordinated manner, the future will be able to take care of economic progress along with reducing the harmful pollution caused by industrialization. Also, civil society should play an active role in creating awareness about the negative effects of pollution on human health and other causes of COPD.
Apart from air pollution, smoking is the major cause of COPD and results in severe damage to the human body, especially the lungs. Long-term exposure to air pollution has numerous adverse effects on human health, with patients with chronic respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma being particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of air pollutants. Air pollution can also aggravate and trigger asthma leading to respiratory disorders due to decreased lung health.
Many researches indicate that women in developing countries are at higher risk of COPD due to household cooking fumes, so it is important that they protect their lungs by switching to healthier fuels and prioritizing their health over family needs. Keep good health. It is also important that we debunk the marketing myths surrounding the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping. People usually fall for such gimmicks and risk their health just to follow the trend and look stylish and fashionable.
It is quite clear that COPD, air pollution and lung health are essentially interlinked, and therefore a comprehensive approach that includes all relevant stakeholders is required. Governments need to ensure that they seek the participation of health professionals in policy matters on health and the environment, and engage in inter-sectoral policy making for better outcomes. The government also needs to popularize the use of clean and green sources of energy instead of the use of fossil fuels. Also, there is a need to take initiatives for better waste management techniques in metros as well as crop waste in rural areas. To reduce the exposure of air pollution to children, schools and playgrounds should be located away from busy roads, factories and power plants. Policy interventions in this regard can pave the way to better deal with the problem of air pollution and a holistic approach can provide better results.
But the responsibility of this change should not be of the government alone, preventive lifestyle is necessary to stay away from lung diseases. The role of lifestyle modification at the individual level can successfully combat air pollution and its resultant disorders including COPD. From choosing green vehicles to limiting the use of fossil fuels to quitting smoking, small lifestyle changes can go a long way in ensuring healthy and happy lungs. Incorporating some type of physical activity into your daily routine, along with engaging in breathing exercises, can increase vitality and vigor not only in your lungs but also in your mental health. It is scientifically proven that people who have anxiety disorder or stress are at higher risk of developing asthma and COPD. When it comes to managing COPD, along with a healthy diet and a non-sedentary lifestyle, emotional well-being is equally important. Small steps in the right direction can play a major role in promoting lung health and managing air pollution; Car-pooling, using mosquito nets instead of dangerous repellents, keeping indoor plants, and most importantly giving up any form of smoking, which is harmful to your family as well as the environment. In keeping with WHO’s vision of “a world in which all people breathe freely”, let us strive to leave a safer and healthier planet for our future generations.
(Kamal Narayan Omar is the CEO of the Integrated Health and Wellbeing (IHW) Council)