India is a country with a diverse culture, rich traditions, and a booming economy. However, an invisible threat lurks in the air, making it difficult for people to breathe, especially during the hot summer months. With India's growing population and rapid industrialisation, air pollution has become a significant environmental and public health concern. As if that wasn't enough, India is also experiencing record-breaking heatwaves, posing a severe threat to public health. But did you know that the combination of air pollution and heatwaves can have even more deadly consequences? In this blog, we will explore the dangerous combination of air pollution and heatwaves and their impact on the vulnerable population of India.
India has experienced its fair share of heat waves, even in traditionally cooler cities like Shimla and Bangalore. Climate change has caused temperatures to climb above 40°C during summer months, leading to various health issues and a rise in air pollution levels. With the added threat of El Nino, it seems that this issue will only get worse. Wondering what El Nino is?
What exactly is the ‘El Nino’ phenomenon, and what are its consequences?
El Nino, a natural phenomenon that happens every 3 to 5 years, is caused by a rise in sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. This event significantly impacts India's agriculture sector by disrupting the usual rainfall patterns and leading to below-normal rainfall levels. The resulting drought-like situations have had a severe impact on crops and the livelihoods of farmers.
The deadly combo of HEATWAVE and AIR POLLUTION in India!
India is no stranger to scorching heat, but in recent years, the frequency and severity of heatwaves have increased significantly. The Indian Meteorological Department's report indicates that the number of heatwave days in the country has risen by 25% over the past 50 years, and this trend is set to continue. With the looming threat of climate change, heatwaves are projected to become even more frequent and intense, posing a severe risk to public health and the environment.
As if rising temperatures weren't enough, air pollution is another major concern during heatwaves in India. The hot weather often results in stagnant air that traps pollutants, causing an increase in their concentration. Sadly, this can have dire consequences for human health, as pollutants can trigger respiratory issues, heart disease, and even premature death. In fact, a study by the Centre for Science and Environment found that air pollution is responsible for a staggering 2 million premature deaths in India each year.
Heatwaves and air pollution are posing serious threats to public health, especially in India. Shockingly, a recent study published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal revealed that air pollution is the second biggest cause of death in the country, trailing behind high blood pressure. Even more alarming, the study found that air pollution is responsible for more fatalities in India than smoking. These findings underscore the urgent need for effective measures to tackle this growing menace and safeguard public health.
Air pollution is more than just a respiratory hazard - it can wreak havoc on our overall health. Heart disease, stroke, and cancer are just some of the serious health risks associated with breathing in polluted air. And as if that weren't enough, when heatwaves hit, these health dangers are amplified even further. That's why it's absolutely crucial that we take proactive steps to shield ourselves from the perils of air pollution and rising temperatures.
How are heatwaves correlated with rising air pollution?
Heat and air pollution make for a lethal duo, and when they team up, the results can be downright catastrophic. Not only does air pollution pose a significant health risk on its own, but when temperatures soar, the danger level skyrockets. Studies have shown that on days when heat and air pollution are both high, the risk of mortality spikes even more dramatically than on days when pollution levels are high but the temperature is milder. Let's examine the adverse effects of heat and air pollution on human health.
- Stagnant air increases danger:
When temperatures rise, the air becomes stagnant and traps pollutants that would usually disperse. The concentration of these pollutants then increases, making it riskier to breathe.
- Pollution intensifies heat effects:
Air pollution worsens the effects of heat waves, creating a dangerous cycle that further raises temperatures. Smog, for instance, can trap heat in the atmosphere, increasing the risk of heat-related illnesses.
- Respiratory issues:
Combining air pollution and heat waves raises the risk of respiratory problems. When the heat meets the smog, the lungs take the brunt. The hot and polluted air can aggravate respiratory problems like asthma and bronchitis, making it difficult and irritable to breathe easily.
- Cardiovascular complications:
When heatwaves and air pollution strike, your heart takes a hit, leading to cardiovascular problems. The heart works harder to pump blood in hot and polluted conditions, raising the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular events.
Heatwaves exacerbated by air pollution can lead to dehydration. Polluted air forces the body to work harder to breathe, leading to increased fluid loss through sweating.
- Heat-related illnesses:
The body struggles to cool itself in hot and polluted conditions, leading to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and other heat-related complications. Air pollution further strains the body, making these conditions even worse.
- Risk to vulnerable populations:
When it comes to the deadly duo of heatwaves and air pollution, vulnerable populations like the elderly, children, and those with pre-existing health conditions are at an even greater risk. The harmful effects of heat and pollution can lead to serious health complications, and for these groups, the stakes become even higher.
Protective measures to prevent harmful consequences
Ready to fight back against the deadly combination of air pollution and heat waves? Here are some practical steps you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from their harmful effects.
- Beat the heat:
Stay indoors during the hottest part of the day (12 pm to 3 pm) and wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothes to keep cool. Shield yourself from harmful UV rays with a hat or umbrella.
- H2O is the way to go:
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and avoid dehydration. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can eventually dehydrate you.
- Cool it down:
Use air conditioning or fans to stay cool at home. If you don't have access to AC, take a refreshing cool shower or bath to bring your body temperature down.
- Easy does it:
Avoid strenuous activity during peak heat hours. If you must exercise, do it in the early morning or late evening when the temperature is cooler.
- Keep it clean:
Clear the air and keep it clean! Use natural cleansers like plants instead of chemicals, use air purifiers, and open windows to reduce indoor pollution at your home and workspace. Personal hygiene should also be kept in mind during hot summers. Take frequent showers, use deodorants and wear clean, sweat free clothing.
- Go green:
Plant trees and use green spaces to improve air quality and cool down your surroundings. Trees provide shade and absorb pollutants from the air, making them your natural air purifiers.
In conclusion, the deadly combination of heatwaves and air pollution is a serious threat to public health in India. With the country's rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, the sources of air pollution are ever-increasing, exacerbating the impact of heatwaves on human health. It's crucial that we take action to reduce air pollution and adopt protective measures to prevent harmful consequences. This can include promoting clean energy, taking care of oneself, implementing pollution control measures, and adopting sustainable transportation practices. By working together, we can ensure a healthier and safer future for all.