Pollution may be wrecking havoc on Indians at a scale larger than previously thought, going by the results of a unique medical investigation in India in which a team of researchers quizzed nearly 12,000 doctors across India and asked them to tabulate and record the most common reasons for patients visiting them on one single day.
On Feb 1, 2011--an arbitrarily chosen day and also because it emerges at the fag end of outbreaks such as flu and dengue-- the records of nearly 500,000 patients were scanned. Fever was the most common single reason people visited a doctor but the bulk of the diagnoses was hypertension, or high blood pressure, and respiratory diseases. Moreover, men were more likely to see a doctor than woman and this held true even among children, which according to the researchers, suggested a 'gender bias.'
On the other hand, barely 8% of the patients who visited a doctor were aged over 65 when--given their increased likelihood of weak health--one would expect more of them to be seeing doctors.
In their research paper published in the week's online edition of the medical journal Lancet, the authors note, "Respiratory symptoms were the leading cause of a visit to a health-care provider across India, accounting for about half of all patients and 65% of all child patients...Indians had the lowest lung function of the 17 countries that were studied, with a mean difference in spirometric indices of about 30–35% lower than white people matched for age, sex, and height. These previous studies should serve as a call for urgent public health measures to reduce the burden of chronic, non-communicable respiratory diseases in India."
An analysis by the Hindu suggests that pollution was abysmal on Diwali. Twenty of 26 air quality monitoring stations across the country recorded “severe” air quality at midnight on Wednesday night, a level of pollution that India officially rates as its worst possible, and describes as one that “affects even healthy people, and seriously impacts those with existing diseases”.
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