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As Delhi-NCR Record 'Poor' Air Quality, Pollution Crisis May Cause 'Catastrophic Effects' amid Pandemic, Pollution Crisis May Cause 'Catastrophic Effects' amid Covid-19

People, wearing masks to get protection from air-pollution, walk along a road in New Delhi. (Image: PTI)

People, wearing masks to get protection from air-pollution, walk along a road in New Delhi. (Image: PTI)

Monitoring stations in Delhi located in Wazirabad, Vivek Vihar and Anand Vihar recorded poor AQI along with Ghaziabad, Greater Noida and Faridabad leading to major concerns among health officials.

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Prashasti Shandilya

Air quality index in the Delhi NCR regions has deteriorated to 'poor' category ahead of winter season amid the coronavirus pandemic. Monitoring stations in Delhi located in Wazirabad, Vivek Vihar and Anand Vihar recorded poor AQI along with Ghaziabad, Greater Noida and Faridabad leading to major concerns among health officials.

Former Indian Medical Association (IMA) president, Dr KK Aggarwal said that while wearing of masks is a good practice that people have adapted themselves, he warns that some of these used against Covid-19 will not be useful against micro pollutants. "While the usage of surgical and cloth masks may prevent the viral infection, these will not be able to filter the micro pollutants. Therefore, people must shift to medical masks. Universal masking is the key but the deterioration of air results in coughing and sneezing, which might catalyse the spread of SARS-CoV2 infection."

According to Dr Vivek Nangia, director and head of Pulmonology at Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, said polluted air decreases the immunity of the respiratory tract leading to respiratory infections. "Amid the ongoing pandemic situation, diminishing respiratory tract immunity due to poor air quality will have catastrophic effects. Covid-19 cases will go up substantially and the worst affected will likely be children, senior citizens and those who have diabetes, heart disease, liver and lung infections and cancer. It's advisable to wear masks and leave homes only if it is essential."

Air pollution has been a recurrent issue during winters in Delhi and neighbouring stated of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh due to the issue of stubble burning public health emergency was declared last year owing to the exponential rise in pollution levels. Major food staples, wheat and rice are cultivated in a short period of time. Soon after the rice crops are ready, the wheat crops need to be harvested. Since burning the crop residue has been the most economically viable alternative for farmers, the pollution has led to severe health issued to those in and around the capital.

The burning of the crop residue results in massive emissions of toxins as nitrogenous fertilisers are used. These pollutants get trapped in the dense fog, covering the states in a thick layer of smog and haze. Micro pollutants like PM 2.5 and PM 10 remain suspended in the air, causing respiratory ailments. This year, the trouble is likely to intensify as the country is reeling due to the novel coronavirus that typically affects the respiratory system.


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