Doctors for Clean Air, a national network of doctors concerned and working towards clean air, have urged political parties to include combating air pollution in their manifestos for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. 122 doctors working with prominent medical organisations from over 15 states have signed the petition asking that political parties take cognisance of the issue of air pollution and outline timebound measures to protect public health from ill effects of air pollution. Till now, the Indian National Congress is the only political party to include tackling air pollution in its manifesto.
“It is great to see that a national party, Indian National Congress, recognises air pollution as a national health emergency. We look forward to seeing the inclusion of this important issue in the manifestos of other political parties and also listing of time-bound quantifiable immediate measures to deal with the emergency,” Dr Arvind Kumar, Founder Trustee – Lung Care Foundation and Chairman – Center For Chest Surgery, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi said.
“Today, over 99% of India’s population is breathing air that is much worse than WHO or even Indian Standards and 14 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities are in India. Clearly, we are headed towards a health epidemic,” the petition reads.
According to an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)-led report, household air pollution was responsible for 5% of the total disease burden in India in 2016, and outdoor air pollution for 6%. The report adds that “the contribution of air pollution to disease burden remained high in India between 1990 and 2016, with levels of exposure among the highest in the world”.
Recent studies from Bengaluru and Jaipur highlight the incidence of childhood asthma at a shocking high of 24%. Recent studies have also detected air pollution deposits even in the placenta of pregnant women, leading to a significant increase in the risk of premature birth and of low birth weight and thus lifelong damage to health.
“Worrying trends visible in our everyday medical practice also correlate with new studies being published about the link of Air Pollution and health. We are witnessing an increase in the incidence of respiratory ailments, lung cancer (especially in non-smokers), the occurrence of lung cancer in younger age group, higher incidence of high blood pressure and an increase in heart and brain attacks,” the petition states.
The doctors have added that though several measures have been taken by the Centre and various state governments to reduce indoor air pollution and ambient air pollution, India is a long way from achieving W.H.O. standards.
“We, the Citizens of India, Doctors, and caretakers of Indian Citizens, urge and request you to make air pollution control a priority in your election manifesto and outline time-bound measures to protect public health from ill effects of air pollution,” the petition says.