The other side of the green

  • Archana Phull | Shimla

    June 12, 2017 | 05:49 PM
Himachal Pradesh

Houses in a hill village (PHOTO: Lalit Kumar/SNS)

The green hill state of Himachal Pradesh is not the same inside. The state suffers from indoor air pollution for typical living conditions of folks, exposing them to the risk of tuberculosis.

A recent study by Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC), Shimla, reiterates the unfavourable role of poor ventilation and indoor air pollution in tuberculosis (TB) patients. Conducted by Dr Harshvardhan Singh, Dr SR Mazta, Dr Anita Thakur and Dr Tripti Chauhan from the Community Medicine Department at the medical college on 117 TB patients, the study observed poor ventilation in half of the households. About 34 per cent of the TB patients were exposed to indoor air pollution.

As per findings, those with a history of tobacco smoking, second hand smoke and indoor air pollution showed to have six-nine times greater risk of treatment failure, despite being given adequate treatment as compared to those who were not exposed.

In Himachal Pradesh, around 15,000 new cases of TB are registered every year, whereas 9,000 TB patients seek treatment from the private sector.

Dr Harshvardhan Singh, who has been invited to present the study at the 48th Union world conference on Lung Health in Mexico in October 2017, said the small state with a population of about seven million and relatively cleaner air is expected to provide healthy environment which repels disease. “Instead, the state is facing dreaded Tuberculosis disease, besides other infections and lung cancer, due to indoor air pollution,” he said.

Indoor air pollution is the pollution faced by every human being in his or her household, before being exposed to the outer environment. The major sources of indoor air pollution worldwide include combustion of solid fuels indoors, tobacco smoking, emissions from construction materials and furnishings, outdoor air pollutants etc.

About four million people die every year prematurely due to illnesses attributable to household air pollution. Among top killers are stroke, Ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia and lower respiratory tract infections notable tuberculosis and lung cancer.

The ill effects of indoor air pollution are due to inflammation of the airways which impairs the immune response and reduces oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.

In Himachal, smaller and closed houses, dependence on firewood for cooking in interior villages (for lack of LPG connections) and high incidence of smoking at home are leading to indoor air pollution. (The incidence of second hand smoke in HP is over 80 per cent).

“Dangers of smoking at home apart, the smoke from burning such fuels (firewood) causes alarming household pollution and adversely affects the health of women and children causing several respiratory diseases or disorders. As per a WHO report, smoke inhaled by women from unclean fuel is equivalent to burning 400 cigarettes in an hour,” he said.