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From Pink To Black, A Chest Surgeon’s First Hand Account Of The Impact Of Air Pollution On Lungs

“About 30 years back, only smokers used to have black deposits on their lungs. But today, I rarely see a pink lung even in non-smokers”, says Dr Arvind Kumar, Chest Surgeon

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From Pink To Black, A Chest Surgeon’s First Hand Account Of The Impact Of Air Pollution On Lungs
Dr Arvind Kumar explains the impact of air pollution on human lungs

New Delhi: Dr Arvind Kumar, Chairman of the Institute of Chest Surgery, Chest Onco-Surgery and Lung Transplantation at the Medanta – The Medicity in Gurugram has been operating on people’s chests, namely lungs for more than 30 years. He along with his team performs nearly three cases a day. In the past three decades, he has noticed some very fundamental and frightening changes in the colour of the lungs of people as well as in the spectrum of people coming to the outpatient department (OPD).

Also Read: As Mumbai Surpasses Delhi In Air Pollution Levels, Can India Look At Surat’s Emission Trading Scheme To Mitigate The Problem?

In an exclusive interview with NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India, Dr Kumar shared his experience and painted a before and after picture of the kind of lungs he used to operate on vs now. He said,

When we are born, our lungs are pink in colour. I have seen black deposits on the pink lungs. About 30 years back, only smokers used to Have black deposits on their lungs. Whereas non-smokers will have by and large have pink lungs. Over the years, slowly, it has changed to the extent that for the last 7-10 years, I rarely see a pink lung even in non-smokers. My horrible moment was about 7 years back when I saw black deposits on the lungs of even teenagers.

From Pink To Black, A Chest Surgeon’s First Hand Account Of The Impact Of Air Pollution On Lungs

The impact of air pollution on lungs

Once deposited on the lungs, these black deposits are permanent; no therapy or treatment can remove them. They stay there and cause lifelong damage to the lungs and various other organs, explained Dr Arvind.

Alarmed by the state of people’s lungs, in 2015, Dr Arvind founded Lung Care Foundation to create awareness amongst people as to what was happening silently inside our bodies, without us being aware.

Also Read: How Delhi’s Toxic Air Is Affecting The Health Of New Mothers And Children

While the situation inside the operating room has been alarming, there is an equally terrifying status emerging from the outpatient department. Talking about the change in the demography of lung cancer patients, Dr Arvind said,

30 years back, the profile of a lung cancer patients included – the majority will be smokers; age group would be the 50s and 60s; mostly men and they would have a history of prolonged smoking. Contrary to it, now I see more than 50 per cent of the patients to be so-called non-smokers; they are in their 30s or 40s which means there is almost a decade and a half preponement of the peak age. Not just this, 40 per cent of the patients today are women, also, non-smokers from non-smoking families. And, it is a rarity for me to see pink lungs. I attribute this shift only to the exposure of so-called non-smokers to air pollution. I dare say, air pollution is now having the same impact on the lungs as smoking has and there is a scientific basis to prove that.

Dr Arvind further added that if one analyses the contents of cigarette smoke, it has over 70 cancer causing agents. A lot of those cancer causing agents are present in the polluted air also. He said,

Polluted air on the lungs and the rest of the body has the same effect as smoking has. Therefore, no wonder, more and more non-smokers are now getting lung cancer and it is directly attributable to their exposure to air pollution.

Also Read: October-November Period Least Polluted In Delhi In Eight Years: Centre For Science And Environment

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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