AIR-ING CONCERN

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AIR-ING CONCERN

Sunday, 05 November 2023 | The HEALTH PIONEER

AIR-ING CONCERN

For the past few years, the month of November has become synonymous with watery eyes, itchy  throats, and respiratory problems as people in Delhi and NCR wakeup everyday to a blanket of smog. During this period, air quality in the world’s most polluted capital city reaches hazardous levels, consequently impacting health, livelihood and economy. The Health Pioneer brings a report

Impact of Air Quality on Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of anticipation and joy, but it can also be a time of increased vulnerability to environmental factors, particularly air quality. As the air we breathe can significantly affect the well-being of both the mother and the developing baby, understanding the connection between air quality and pregnancy outcomes is vital. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the impact of air quality on pregnant women and provide actionable advice on how to protect yourself and your baby during this critical time.

When air quality is compromised, it can lead to health issues for both the mother and the baby.

The tiny particles in polluted air can potentially disrupt fetal development, leading to preterm delivery.

Low birth weight can result from exposure to poor air quality during pregnancy. Babies born with low birth weight may experience health problems. It's crucial to understand that even minor improvements in air quality can significantly reduce the risk of these adverse outcomes.

How to Safeguard Against High AQI

Being aware of the air quality in your area is the first step. You can use air quality apps or websites to keep track of AQI levels. When the AQI is high, consider staying indoors. Also, keep your living space well-ventilated. Use air purifiers and maintain proper humidity levels to reduce indoor air pollutants.

When you need to be outdoors, plan your activities during times when the air quality is better. Avoid busy roads and industrial areas. Wear a mask to reduce inhalation of harmful particles.

Air purifiers can be a valuable addition to your home during pregnancy. They help filter out pollutants, providing cleaner air for you and your baby. When choosing an air purifier, look for one with a HEPA filter and adequate coverage for the room. But here comes the question are air purifiers helpful? For this we need to understanding the concept of air purifiers

These are devices designed to remove particles and pollutants from the air. They work by drawing in air, filtering it, and then releasing clean air. There are various types of air purifiers, including HEPA filters, activated carbon filters, and UV purifiers.

HEPA filters, which stand for High-Efficiency Particulate Air, are particularly effective at capturing particles as small as 0.3 microns. They trap dust, pollen, pet dander, and even bacteria, improving indoor air quality.

Select an air purifier that matches your room's size and consider additional features like noise level and energy consumption. It's essential to maintain your air purifier by regularly changing filters for optimal performance.

Diet and Lifestyle Changes for a Healthy Pregnancy

A diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals can help the body combat the effects of air pollution. Consume fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Proper hydration supports the body's natural detoxification processes. Drink an adequate amount of water daily to help flush out toxins. Also, stress can exacerbate the effects of air pollution. Engage in relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to manage stress and improve overall well-being.

One can go for regular physical activity which in fact is essential during pregnancy. Opt for indoor exercises or choose outdoor activities in areas with better air quality to minimize exposure to pollutants.

INVITING TUBERCLUOSIS

A study has found that respiratory health and rates of tuberculosis in low-income communities may be severely impacted by controllable external factors. Tuberculosis (TB) — a curable and preventable disease — is now the world’s leading cause of death from an infectious agent, surpassing HIV and AIDS.

The study — published online by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health — found that, in Laos, for every additional source of exposure to air pollution, the odds of TB go up 47%. Sources of air pollution considered included exposure to smoked tobacco, secondhand tobacco smoke, and smoke from indoor cooking fires, burning crop waste and burning trash outside.

This study explored what exposure to multiple sources of air pollution did to impact rates of TB. Researchers said they hope the findings will lead to the engagement of multiple sectors of the society beyond healthcare — including agencies working on tobacco control, environmental health, policy makers and civil groups — in promotion of respiratory health.

“We often see the same issues in lower-income communities here in the U.S.,” said Anne Berit Petersen, assistant professor for Loma Linda University School of Nursing and the study’s lead author. “If we look at these factors in terms of poverty, we’re seeing a lot more avoidable cases of tuberculosis in poorer communities. Often the places with the poorest air quality have the most impoverished people,” she said.

The study reported that more than half of the world’s TB cases in 2017 came from the Western Pacific region. In Laos, “the high rates of tobacco use and use of polluting biomass fuels for cooking (e.g., wood, charcoal, crop waste, dung) represent significant risk factors for TB,” the study stated.

Titled, “Smoked Tobacco, Air Pollution, and Tuberculosis in Lao PDR: Findings from a National Sample,” the study was funded by grants from the National Institute of Health. It included data from more than 9,700 subjects from across Laos, representing more than 2,800 households. The findings suggest that the risk of poor respiratory health would be decreased greatly if air quality were improved.

BITTER PILL FOR ‘SUGAR’

Inhaling polluted air increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, the first study of its kind in India has found. Research conducted in Delhi and the southern city of Chennai found that inhaling air with high amounts of PM2.5 particles led to high blood sugar levels and increased type 2 diabetes incidence.

When inhaled, PM2.5 particles – which are 30 times thinner than a strand of hair – can enter the bloodstream and cause several respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

The study is part of ongoing research into chronic diseases in India that began in 2010. It is the first to focus on the link between exposure to ambient PM2.5 and type 2 diabetes in India, one of the worst countries in the world for air pollution.

The average annual PM2.5 levels in Delhi was 82-100µg/m3 and in Chennai was 30-40µg/m3, according to the study, many times the WHO limits of 5µg/m3. India’s national air quality standards are 40µg/m3.

There is also a high burden of non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, hypertension and heart disease in India; 11.4% of the population – 101 million people – are living with diabetes, and about 136 million are pre-diabetic, according to a paper published in the Lancet in June. The average diabetes prevalence in the European Union was 6.2% in 2019, and 8.6% in the UK in 2016.

The Lancet study found India’s diabetes prevalence to be higher than previous estimations and showed a higher number of diabetics in urban than rural India.

In the BMJ study, the researchers followed a cohort of 12,000 men and women in Delhi and Chennai from 2010 to 2017 and measured their blood sugar levels periodically. Using satellite data and air pollution exposure models, they determined the air pollution in the locality of each participant in that timeframe.

They found that one month of exposure to PM2.5 led to elevated levels of blood sugar and prolonged exposure of one year or more led to increased risk of diabetes. They found for every 10µg/m3 increase in annual average PM2.5 level in the two cities, the risk for diabetes increased by 22%.

 “Given the pathophysiology of Indians – low BMI with a high proportion of fat – we are more prone to diabetes than the western population,” said Siddhartha Mandal, lead investigator of the study and a researcher at Centre for Chronic Disease Control, Delhi.

The addition of air pollution – an environmental factor – with lifestyle changes in the past 20 to 30 years is fuelling the increasing burden of diabetes, he said.

“Until now, we had assumed that diet, obesity and physical exercise were some of the factors explaining why urban Indians had higher prevalence of diabetes than rural Indians,” said Dr V Mohan, chairman of the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation and one of the authors of the paper.  

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