NEW DELHI, Nov.14,2017-- Pollution has triggered a health crisis in the Indian capital. Nearly a week since severe haze engulfed Delhi and its adjoining areas, residents are increasingly making a beeline to hospitals seeking urgent medical attention.
Pollution levels are 30 times the World Health Organisation's recommended limit in some areas of the national capital. And Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has already likened the city to a "gas chamber."
Doctors say they have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of patients, mostly children and elderly, visiting hospitals every day.
"I have been living and working in Delhi for the past 26 years and never before have I seen this kind of menace. I am attending to patients day and night whose respiratory passages are blocked, irritable or completely swollen due to the smog," said Dr Avinash Raman, a Delhi-based pulmonologist working with a private hospital.
"We have to immediately put those patients on ventilator relief who are unable to breathe while others are given nebulizers. It is so deadly that it is affecting the lungs and other vital organs of people, because when we inhale too much pollutants, then they interfere with our blood's ability to reach our vital organs," he added.
The worst affected are children and elderly. While children's lungs are not fully developed until a certain age to deal with this kind of pollution, the elderly's system is already weakened with age and therefore unable to deal with the poisonous air.
Following the outbreak, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the country's premier hospital, reported a 20 per cent spike in the number of young and elderly patients with respiratory problems while doctors announced a public health emergency in the city in a chorus and advised people to stay indoors.
"This should be treated as a threat to everyone's life. I have little children coming to me with red eyes and breathlessness. We had to treat children as young as 7-8 year-olds with steroids. It is worse for those who were already prone to respiratory flare-ups. I don't know when the government will act on the situation but this requires some major clean-up act in the capital," said another city-based chest specialist Dr Manek Gupta.
"Our children will have a stunted childhood and a damaged life while the elderly will suffer badly in this toxic air. It should be treated as a warning call, like a nuclear disaster," he added.
Dr Gupta's concerns are not surprising as some studies have assessed the link between air pollution and malfunctioning in newborns.
In one such study conducted at a prestigious Delhi hospital, between 2010 and 2017, doctors and researchers found that environmental factors like pollution and toxic air affected the health of newborn babies from causing premature births to adversely affecting the growth of the foetus.