Srinagar, June 6: Doctors in Kashmir have expressed concern over higher incidence of heart and lung diseases in Kashmir, the trend they suspect is linked to worse air pollution.
According to medical literature, there is a direct link between air pollution exposure and plaque deposition in blood vessels. Now, many doctors have started seeing a higher number of patients with cardiac ailments from areas in Kashmir with poor air quality.
Dr Khalid Mohiuddin, head department of cardiology at GMC Srinagar said the link between pollution and higher risk of heart diseases was “a biblical truth” and had been established beyond doubt.
The vehicular pollution, he said, was the main reason and the residual sulfur dioxide and other chemicals released into the air by fossil fuels were surely contributing to heart ailments and heart attacks.
“Look at our roads – the number of vehicles that have been added in the past 15 years is just too much,” he said. He said that although Kashmir may not have the same number of vehicles but due to the “irrational driving practices” the pollution and its impact was multiplying.
“We have innumerable traffic jams, almost every day here. One cannot imagine the amount of particles and harmful chemicals we are exposed to in these jams especially when we don’t even switch our engines off,” he said.
The effect on lungs of people in areas with higher ambient air suspended particles was also a concern, Dr Naveed Nazir Shah, head department of Chest Medicine at GMC Srinagar said. He said quarrying, cement factories, charcoal burning and related activities were adding to the toll of patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
“These patients have exacerbation of their disease if they are living in such areas, especially if they have prolonged exposure,” he said. COPD is also linked to heart health, Dr Shah said. In addition, he said, long term exposure to pollutants was a known risk for many other ailments of lungs.
Dr Irfan Bhat, cardiologist working with Super Specialty Hospital Srinagar said he was concerned about the patients reporting in large numbers from certain areas. “It struck me first when I started noticing many patients from Khrew area in our OPD,” he said.
Dr Bhat said that atherosclerosis progressed fast if the patient was exposed to air pollution. “It is basically the PM 2.5 that is clouding heart health,” he said, adding that surveys had found Kashmir having a higher incidence of both COPD and heart disease than many parts of India. “We need to look into the cause as well as the effects,” he said.
As per World health Organization, Air Pollution contributed to Stroke, Heart Disease and Lung Disease significantly.