From the Viewsroom

Whose lungs are these anyway!

PT Jyothi Datta | Updated on October 29, 2019

Air pollution is a killer. It spares no one — privileged or otherwise

It would be amusing, if it were not so disconcerting, to see the arguments being made to protect the right to light firecrackers. The louder and brighter the firecracker, the bigger the point scored against — well, there’s the twist, scored against whom? Clear the air of political and religious overhangs and the answer reveals itself. It is a point that we score against ourselves. Because, just as James Shirley wrote of death in a poem, “Death lays his icy hand on kings”, so too with air pollution. It does not spare anyone, privileged or otherwise. The global call to act against air pollution, indoor and outdoor, is because “Microscopic pollutants in the air can slip past our body’s defences, penetrating deep into our respiratory and circulatory system, damaging our lungs, heart and brain,” explains the World Health Organization. Specialists treating respiratory and lung-related illnesses observe how respiratory complications are the single-most common complaint on an average day at the doctors’.

It is into this already precarious environment that we introduce firecrackers, exacerbating an already bad situation. The counter argument often is of personal right, and why clamp down now? This echoes a feeble argument from many years ago, when the government had made wearing helmets mandatory. A reputed neurologist then defended helmets by pointing to the overall healthcare cost saved by this preventive headgear.

Air pollution, too, is not just about that other family with a child having asthma or elderly parents with respiratory problems. It affects even those who don’t have the civic sense to care about the air and sound pollution caused by their firecrackers, besides the fear and injury caused among animals and birds. Every year, seven million people die of air pollution. One-third of the deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are because of air pollution. The fight for clean air is not an us-versus-them battle. Take a deep breath and think, whose lungs are getting affected.

The writer is Deputy Editor with BusinessLine

Published on October 29, 2019

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