New Delhi: With global health experts stating that millions died in India every year due to in-house air pollution, the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) has launched a first of its kind study on impacts of air pollution on newborns in Tamil Nadu.
The five-year study was started in 2011 to check the impact right from pregnancy and 1,200 pregnant women in Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur are being tested at the Sri Ramachandra Medical College Hospital (SRMC) in Chennai to note the symptoms and effects of in-house air pollution.
Speaking to this newspaper, Dr Kalpana Balakrishnan, director, ICMR — Center for Advanced Research on Environmental Health in SRMC, said low birth weight; respiratory illnesses were the major symptoms being studied. “Through this study, we can identify how air pollution affects healthy adults and children by long exposure. Children and mothers develop acute respiratory illnesses and other pulmonary diseases because of in-house air pollution,” she said.
Pointing out that smoke choolas killed many Indians, Dr Kalpana said, “In-house air pollutants are more toxic than the thick chemical smoke in the outside environment. The most common fuel used for cooking and heating is wood and other solid biomass fuels such as charcoal, dung, agricultural residues and dry leaves. Long-time exposure to chemical released from these solid fuels would aggravate the respiratory diseases and result in death.”
She stressed that usage of clean fuel at home was the immediate solution to cut down deaths. “Providing LPG and other clean fuel would be primary preventive measures to control the death toll. Other suggestions like increase in mass transport systems and reducing motor vehicle population come much later,” she said, adding that next to high blood pressure, household air pollution was the leading factor for deaths in India.