Delhi air pollution: Ex-AIIMS chief calls for urgent action against ‘silent killer’ no matter the cost

Guleria called for a robust action plan to address air pollution as a silent killer that exacerbates existing conditions and causes silent health problems.

Former AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria. (File)

Renowned pulmonologist and former AIIMS director Randeep Guleria has issued a stark warning on the grave implications of escalating air pollution levels in Delhi and the Indo-Gangetic belt.Guleria, Chairman of the Institute of Internal Medicine, Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at Medanta, emphasized the dire need for urgent action, shedding light on the immediate and long-term health risks associated with poor air quality.

Guleria called for a robust action plan irrespective of the cost as he underscored air pollution as a silent killer, exacerbating existing conditions and causing silent health problems.

“There are solutions that we can learn from others. But we have to really understand that this is a medical emergency, this is a silent killer, it’s actually affecting not only us but the health of subsequent generations. And that is why we need to really act even if the cost of that action is going to be high,” he was quoted as saying in the interview.

The air quality in the national capital and its adjoining areas rapidly deteriorated due to a combination of factors including stubble burning, and industrial and vehicular emissions. While the AQI saw a decline after sudden rainfall followed by strong wind, the air quality again deteriorated after Diwali. Forecasts suggest that a major relief is unlikely in the coming days.

Guleria outlined the critical impact on various age groups, citing studies indicating stunted lung growth in children and heightened risks of stroke, heart attacks, and dementia in the elderly.

When asked about indoor air pollution and mitigation strategies, the veteran pulmonologist stressed the need for more data on the effectiveness of air purifiers as he explained that factors like room size and ventilation influence their efficacy.

“A lot of indoor air quality is related to outdoor air quality. You could have a room which is more closed…It’s important to remember that when you’re using an air purifier, it also depends on the size of the room and the degree of ventilation that happens in the room. In most houses in Delhi, the rooms are not airtight. Dust comes in even otherwise if you close the door, so pollution will also come in.”

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