Breathing in Delhi air equivalent to smoking 44 cigarettes a day

It was early on the morning when residents in the Indian capital of Delhi first began to notice the thick white haze that had descended across the city. Initially viewed as a mild irritant, by mid-week its debilitating effects were evident to all, as the city struggled to adapt to the new eerie, martian-like conditions brought about by the pollution.

The World Health Organization considers anything above 25 to be unsafe. That measure is based on the concentration of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, per cubic meter. The microscopic particles, which are smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, are considered particularly harmful because they are small enough to lodge deep into the lungs and pass into other organs, causing serious health risks.
With visibility severely reduced, trains have been canceled, planes delayed and cars have piled into each other, with multiple traffic accidents reported across the city. On the afternoon, city chiefs closed all public and private schools, requesting instead that the city’s tens of thousands of school-aged children remain indoors; they banned incoming trucks and halted civil construction projects; while they announced new plans to begin implementing a partial ban on private car use as of next week. But as the city woke up to a fourth straight day of heavy pollution, practical considerations were being overtaken by more serious concerns, with journalists and doctors warning residents of the long-term health implications.

Air quality readings in the Indian capital have reached frightening levels in recent days, at one point topping the 1,000 mark on the US embassy air quality index. Across the capital, doctors reported a surge in patients complaining of chest pain, breathlessness and burning eyes. “The number of patients have increased obviously,” said Deepak Rosha, a pulmonologist at Apollo Hospital, one of the largest private hospitals in Delhi. “I don’t think it’s ever been so bad in Delhi. I’m very angry that we’ve had to come to this.”
Breathing in air with a PM2.5 content of between 950 to 1,000 is considered roughly equivalent to smoking 44 cigarettes a day, according to the independent Berkeley Earth science research group.

Car Pollution: Nanoparticles Travel Directly From The Nose To The Brain

The closer a person lives to a source of pollution, like a traffic dense highway, the more likely they are to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia, according to a study by the University of Southern California (USC) that has linked a close connection to pollution and the diseases. In a mobile lab, located just off of one of Los Angeles’ busiest freeways, USC scientists used a state-of-the-art pollution particle collector capable of gathering nano-sized particulate matter.

car pollution

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We have shown that, as you would expect, the closer you get to the sources of these particles in our case the freeways, the higher the concentrations. So there is an exponential decay with distance. That means basically that, the concentration of where we are right now and if we were, let’s just say 20 or 10 or 50 yards from the freeway, those levels would be probably 10 times higher than where we are right now,” says Costas Sioutas, USC Professor of Environmental Engineering.

That means proximity to high concentrations of fossil fuel pollution, like a congested freeway, could be hazardous. Particulate matter roughly 30 times thinner than the width of a human hair, called PM2.5, is inhaled and can travel directly through the nose into the brain. Once there, the particles cause inflammatory responses and can result in the buildup of a type of plaque, which is thought to further the progression of Alzheimer’s. “Our study brought in this new evidence and I would say probably so far the most convincing evidence that the particle may increase the risk of dementia. This is really a public health problem. And I think the policy makers need to be aware of that, the public health risk associated with high level of PM2.5,” explains Jiu-Chiuan Chen, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine.

USC researchers analyzed the data of more than 3,500 women who had the APOE4 gene, the major known risk-factor gene for Alzheimer’s disease. It showed that, over the course of a decade, the women who lived in a location with high levels of the PM2.5 pollution were 92 percent more likely to develop dementia.

Source: https://news.usc.edu/
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