New Delhi, Nov 28: At a time when Delhi and its neighbouring areas are battling unprecedented rise in air pollution, a new study reveals alarming details as how poor air quality in the country is killing thousands.
The report released in the national capital on Monday by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) uncovers that air pollution causes 30 per cent of all premature deaths in the country. The same study has established air pollution linkages with mental diseases.
"Body Burden: Lifestyle Diseases", the latest report on the state of India's health, investigates and exposes the new and emerging environmental triggers for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country.
The report, released by a panel of eminent medical doctors, establishes that unless environmental risk factors are acknowledged and dealt with, India will not be able to curb NCDs, responsible for more than 61 per cent of the deaths in the country.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are four major risk factors for NCDs -- alcohol, tobacco, poor diet intake and lack of physical activity. The WHO says that by investing just US $1-3 per person per year, countries can dramatically reduce illness and death from NCDs.
However, according to Sunita Narain, director general, the CSE, the investment for India will be much higher. "We believe the cost is going to be much higher considering that risk factors (in India) are many more than the four identified by the global body.
"These risk factors have multiple targets and can cause diseases which are not generally linked to them. For example, exposure to pesticides is known to cause cancer, but new data is emerging to link it to diabetes as well," she says.
Similarly, air pollution is known to cause Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD), but there is little understanding on how this can adversely affect mental health.
The "Body Burden" report highlights these linkages. Says Vibha Varshney, the lead writer of the report: "Targeting environmental risk factors is essential if we want to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 3.4, which mandates a one-third reduction in premature deaths due to lifestyle diseases by 2030."
"Though the WHO has identified the major risk factors for NCDs, it is still coy in calling out the real enemy--foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat and low in nutrition. It wants to play it as safe as possible so that it does not have to confront the real players and demand a restraint on their products," says Narain.
The seven major health problems in India as per the new study are obesity, mental diseases, cancer, heart diseases, respiratory diseases, hormonal disorders and food allergies.
The latest study by the CSE clearly raises several serious questions. However, the most important one is the one on how to deal with rising air pollution to save thousands of lives every year in the country.