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Dangerous Effects of Pollution on Vulnerable Elders
By
Ms. Lakshmi Dayal

 

Clean Air is the basic essential for life.

 

Pollution, particularly air-pollution, has become the bane of human-kind in recent times. Air-pollution, along with climate change, was recognized as a major environmental Global threat to human health by the World Health Organization in 2019.  

 

The fast-paced, often haphazard urbanization and development of our cities, towns and even villages, have led to an ever-increasing number of cars, trucks and other vehicular emissions; volatile compounds from factories; diesel generators; burning of natural gases and toxic gases from waste water; toxic smoke, especially from seasonal stubble-burning by farmers, are some of the causative factors leading to life-threatening levels of air pollution. 

 

Air pollution is the contamination of air by extremely harmful toxic gases and smoke that results in microscopic Particulate Matter called PM 2.5 poisoning the air. 

 

Further on, we have listed some simple measures to protect yourself as much as possible. Do please read on….. 

 

Each year, millions of people actually die due to pollution-related health complications. It can effect not just the body but often, the mind too. Air pollution is especially hazardous and can have long-term serious consequences. It is being called the silent killer. Under severe AQI (air quality index) conditions, exposure to polluted air affects everyone but has a particularly dangerous impact on people with existing health problems. Though it is generally bad around this time of the year, since pollutants hang around longer in cool air, the scourge of Covid 19 is adding to the woes – Government estimates a 13% increase in Covid cases due to severe air pollution in Delhi and NCR. 

 

Elders Most Susceptible

As we grow older, the functioning of the human body gradually slows down. The lungs of seniors are not able to filter out the pollutants, especially the toxic gases easily and it becomes difficult for the weakened immune system to fight bacteria and infections. Breathing polluted air causes the blood flow to slow down, impacting the heart too. It also has a negative effect on the aging bones as well as the brain of the elder. 

 

Ailments and Symptoms

Air pollution significantly contributes to Respiratory and Heart ailments – both causing and aggravating existing health conditions. It is gravely harmful for people already suffering from Asthma or Cardiovascular issues. Patients with COPD-Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema should not venture out of the house on severely polluted days. Long-term exposure is a contributing factor in heart attack, stroke and serious damage to the lungs, increasing the risk of lung-cancer. It adversely affects bone health too, accelerating atherosclerosis, thus causing osteoporosis and fractures

 

Other symptoms include sore throats, coughing and sneezing, itchy sore eyes with burning sensation, headaches and sometimes dizziness and of course , breathlessness. This polluted haze, combined with cold weather, negatively affects mood and mental focus, leading to irritability and even depression sometimes. Actually, recent studies have revealed evidence that shows a greater risk of Elders developing Dementia due to prolonged exposure to the poisonous air. 

 

Ways to Protect Yourself from the Effects of Pollution

It is imperative for everyone to be aware and take preventive measures. We are giving you a fairly comprehensive list of Do’s and Don’ts. Please try and follow as many as you can, without stressing yourself. 

 

  • Avoid going for morning walks when there is smog. You can do Yoga with Pranayam to feel energized and breathe more comfortably.
  • On polluted days, do wear a mask whenever you step out of your house - even in your balcony or garden.
  • Use good quality Air purifiers in the house and office premises.
  • Install a chimney or exhaust fan in your kitchen and bathrooms, to avoid indoor pollution.
  • To allow necessary air circulation, ventilate your home between 3-5pm, when experts say PM2.5 is at its lowest.
  • DO NOT SMOKE indoors - if at all!
  • Keep indoor House-Plants like Aloe Vera, Rubber plant, Spider plant, Areca Palm and Peace Lily in the home, as they purify the air by releasing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide.
  • Air dry-cleaned garments properly before wearing or storing them - as many solvents are carcinogenic.
  • Wash Bedding weekly in hot water.
  • Minimize and use only natural organic Incense, aroma candles and air-freshners – artificial scents can cause allergies and worsen air quality.
  • Art and Craft and office products such as glues, adhesives, paints, toner-ink etc. should be used in well-ventilated areas.
  • Avoid wood-burning fireplaces and stoves - can cause irritation in lungs.
  • Clean and dust the home regularly, while avoiding harsh household cleaners and keep garbage-bins covered.
  • Do not burn dry leaves or garbage – pollutes the air badly.
  • Use gas-grills rather than charcoal, to avoid contaminating the air with fossil fuels.
  • Say NO to Firecrackers, the smoke causes massive air-pollution, leading to smog and difficulty in breathing.
  • Avoid products containing chemicals and artificial ingredients as much as possible. Go for sustainable, organic products and buy local organic, fresh Farm produce.
  • Start a Kitchen-garden of your own, if some space is available – you can even grow smaller vegetable plants like tomatoes and several kinds of herbs in flower-pots. Gardening is anyway a pleasant and therapeutic activity.
  • Inhale steam from water infused with a few drops of Eucalyptus oil every evening to eliminate toxins.
  • Drink Herbal Tea, like Ginger-Basil (tulsi), Green tea with lemon and honey and various Indian ‘karha’ concoctions to detoxify.
  • Eating Jaggery (gudd), helps in flushing out pollutants from lungs.
  • Drink plenty of warm, clean water and also wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly in filtered water or use the electronic gadget available specifically for washing farm-produce.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in anti-oxidants, including plenty of fresh vegetables, dry-fruits and fruits with high vitamin C content.
  • Use energy-efficient Cars or form car-pools to minimize vehicle pollution. A particularly deadly pollutant called Benzene, is a result of vehicle pollution, factory emissions and waste-water. Exposure to it can cause various types of cancer.
  • Purify the air in your car by running the AC in indoor circulation mode for a while, to reduce levels of PM 2.5.

 

There are mainly five types of Pollution:

  • Air Pollution
  • Water Pollution
  • Soil or Ground Pollution
  • Sound Pollution
  • Light Pollution

 

All of them are harmful but Air pollution as we have seen, is life-threatening.  

 

There are many steps that you can take as a responsible citizen, to reduce the impact of various kinds of pollution generally. 

 

Be aware and mindful, whilst taking good care of yourself and your loved ones. 

 

For any further queries or health concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at EMOHA eldercare. Our well-trained and compassionate team members would be privileged to help you. For us, it’s always #ELDERS FIRST

 

 

 

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