August 13, 2022

Panel of Doctors Warns on the Health Impact of Air Pollution & Growing Cancer Cases

Staff Reporter –

Leading Doctors and Health Practitioners from across West Bengal and Jharkhand issued an urgent warning on the growing number of cancer patients and impact of air pollution. Speaking on the occasion of the World Cancer Day on a Webinar organised by the SwitchON Foundation in association with West Bengal Doctors Forum and Association of Radiation Oncologists of India, Doctors explained the dangerous mixtures of ambient air pollution invariably containing specific chemicals known to be highly carcinogenic to humans. Beside, the other health problems associated with PM2.5 and ultrafine particles can include: Heart and lung disease, bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, and more intense flare ups.

The Air Quality Indices of cities across West Bengal have been showing alarmingly poor air qualities for quite some time now, exposing a large part of the population to severe health impact. As per the experts there has long been concern that airborne carcinogens contribute to the global burden of cancer, especially of the lung, which receives the most substantial inhaled doses.  Environmental pollutants are the risk factors for many cancers, and the most common is lung cancer followed by urological cancers, haematological malignancies, head and neck and gastrointestinal cancers. Lung cancer is the most often diagnosed cancer and leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. In India, lung cancer accounts for 5.9% of all cancers and 8.1% of all cancer-related deaths. Lung cancer is highly fatal, with an overall 5-year survival rate of only 18%.

Dr. Suman Mallik Chief of Radiation Oncology, NH Narayana SuperSpeciality Hospital, attending the webinar said, “Substantial numbers of lung cancer cases are observed among never-smokers” He later added “Lately I have seen a large number of lung cancer patients who never smoked”

In the year 2000 the US National Toxicology Program added diesel particulate matter (DPM) to their list of carcinogens and proclaimed that DPM is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” and according to a 2002 US Environmental Protection Agency report more than 100 carcinogenic of potentially carcinogenic components have been specifically identified in diesel emissions. Currently about 32 per cent of particulate emissions are from the use of diesel in city buses and vehicles, beside 45 per cent of the NOx based pollution. The 2008 Calcutta High Court banned commercial vehicles aged more than 15 years, based on which the current plans to phase out 5655 commercial vehicles by the end of this year is a positive step in the right direction.

Dr Bishan Basu, Associate Professor & Head of Dept (Radiotherapy), Calcutta National Medical College, West Bengal Doctors Forum said, “Growing level of air pollution in the cities has become a major threat to our health. People are suffering from respiratory diseases, cardiac diseases, and various types of cancer due to pollution. But, what we are discussing is the tip of the iceberg only and solutions are not as obvious as we think.”

Dr Abhijit Sarkar, Consultant, Pediatric & Neonatal Medicine, Narayana MultiSpecialty and Narayana SuperSpecialty Hospitals said, “Various cancer cases along with other acute and chronic airways diseases are on the rise in children and this definitely raises alarm bells for adults to be more responsive in their actions for a cleaner air across.” As per some global research the incidence of childhood cancers is also increasing, based on a recent report of data from 62 countries and more than 100 population-based registries.

Dr MV Chandrakanth Consultant Medical Oncology, NH Narayana Superspeciality Hospitals said, “Now, there is enough epidemiologic and experimental evidence of the genotoxic and mutagenic effects of air pollution on human DNA, which is a key cancer driver.”

The organiser of the webinar SwitchON Foundation’s on this occasion launched an important medical student engagement programme “Clean Air Medical Student Ambassador Programme”, with a mission to engage with the medical student fraternity in order to boost the awareness of the current health impact and damages caused by Air Pollution. Speaking at the launch, Vinay Jaju MD SwitchON Foundation said, “The major global environmental movements are being carried by the Youth and Medical Students who are the future of healthcare experts, can make a significant contribution to the need for larger awareness in the society”

Speaking on the occasion Dr. Arup Haldar, Consultant Pulmonologist, Woodlands Multispecialty Hospitals said, “Life expectancy has been drastically reduced in the presence of air pollution. But overall awareness on this menace is scarce. This is not only true for the general population, but also true for medical professionals. So to raise awareness we need an army of dedicated people. We also need a lot of research to delineate air pollution as a big killer. A big step to achieve this goal is forming the brigade, as planned by Switch ON foundation. I am with them at every step

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