High levels of fine particulate matter in the open air are leading to premature deaths due to acute and chronic illnesses like lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular diseases worldwide amounting to 11, 16 and 20 % cases, respectively. This was revealed, based on the data collected through satellite images, > 3000 ground station monitors across the globe, by recent report of World Health Organisation (WHO). This problem is more severe in urban areas. The fine particles are generated due to burning of fuels, thermal power plants, industrial air pollution, households and burning of biomass like dead leaves, fire wood, coal, etc. The particulate matter in our country at present is 10 micrograms per cubic feet, which is 7.5 times more than the limit of 2.5 micrograms per cubic feet fixed by WHO. More than 80% urbanites are breathing the air with air quality levels far exceeding the WHO limits, indicating the gravity of the situation. Almost all the cities in low and middle income countries do not meet WHO guidelines on air quality. If the current situation continues it may not take much time to buy fresh air, which is already available in bottles with a price tag of $20, which is enough to inhale for 150-200 times. Like bottled drinking water, we may need to buy bottled air in the future and it may turn into a big business in the coming years, to avoid getting caught by diseases caused due to inhaling of polluted air. Burning of dry leaves or garbage either by corporation sweepers or residents should be stopped with immediate effect. They should be made aware of the ill effects of burning as a easy way to complete their task. Steps are needed to keep automobile pollution under control. All stakeholders need to take steps in this direction.
Dr S V N Vijayendra, Mysuru