Delhi’s AQI hits 504: Experts warn of respiratory problems, post-COVID lung issues

| Updated: 04 November, 2023 4:21 pm IST

NEW DELHI: The Air Quality Index (AQI) in the national capital has surged to a hazardous level of 504, falling into the ‘severe’ category. Health experts are sounding the alarm over the escalating respiratory problems, particularly among those grappling with post-COVID lung injuries.

Despite concerted efforts and interventions by both the Delhi government and the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), a statutory body mandated to oversee air quality management in Delhi NCR and its adjacent regions, the grim reality on the ground continues to deteriorate.

READ MORE: Delhi AQI dips to ‘severe’ level, expert cites discrepancy in govt plans, farmer compliance

PM 2.5, which should ideally measure at a safe level of 60 micrograms per cubic metre for breathing, has skyrocketed to a staggering eight times its permissible limit.

The surge in fine particulate (PM2.5) pollution is a growing concern as it signifies unhealthy air, contributing to severe health complications such as heart attacks, cardiovascular issues, asthma, low birth weight, severe eye problems, and reduced visibility due to haze.

Breathing air of such dire quality is estimated to diminish life expectancy by up to a decade.

A Lancet Commission on Pollution and health report released in 2019 held pollution accountable for approximately nine million deaths globally, equating to one in six fatalities. The report emphasised that India, where poor air quality claims over a million lives annually, remains one of the hardest-hit countries.

Speaking to The New Indian, Dr. Kuldeep Kumar Grover, Head of Critical Care and Pulmonology at CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram, highlighted the detrimental impact of severe air pollution on life expectancy.

He explained, “Every respiratory issue is categorised as either controlled or uncontrolled, based on the number of exacerbations (how frequently one falls ill or requires hospitalization), which leads to a progressive decline in lung functions and lung age. Pollution is a trigger for increased respiratory problems, making it a cause for concern for everyone. Even a healthy individual cannot lead a wholesome life in an environment with poor air quality.”

Speaking on the efficacy of masks, Dr. Grover stated that using masks indoors is often impractical and not a comprehensive solution. Instead, he recommended strategies such as keeping doors and windows closed, using air purifiers and humidifiers, increasing awareness, following health alert protocols, and maintaining perseverance.

Dr. Puneet Gupta, Head of the Department of Pulmonology, Intervention Pulmonology & Sleep Medicine at Yatharth Hospital, emphasised the harmful impact of this severe AQI on post-COVID lung injuries and other respiratory conditions.

He said, “During this season in Delhi-NCR, the air quality index is very poor due to an increase in particulate matter—Nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide in the air. This bad air quality is particularly harmful to patients with bronchial asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, respiratory infections, Interstitial Lung Diseases (ILDs), post-COVID lung injuries, and respiratory allergies.”

Dr. Gupta advised respiratory patients, particularly during periods of poor air quality, to avoid outdoor activities, consistently use prescribed inhalers or medications, and maintain hydration by consuming an adequate quantity of water and seasonal fruits. Adhering to these preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of experiencing respiratory symptoms.

In response to the worsening air quality, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai has written to Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav, urging an emergency meeting with the Environment ministers of neighbouring states to address the pressing pollution issue.

The AQI is categorised as follows: 0-50 (‘good’), 51-100 (‘satisfactory’), 101-200 (‘moderate’), 201-300 (‘poor’), 301-400 (‘very poor’), and 401-500 (‘severe’).




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