14 Dec 2012
New Delhi, India.
High blood pressure (BP) has become the world’s deadliest diseasecausing risk factor. But for Indians, IAP (indoor air pollution) – emanating from chul–has burning wood, coal and animal dung as fuel – has been found to be a bigger health hazard for Indians.
The first–ever estimate of the contribution of different risk factors to the global burden of disease between 1990 and 2010 has found that household air pollution from solid fuels have risen from being the second highest risk factor for Indians. The study found that globally, high BP jumped four spots to become the worst risk factor for disease, followed by smoking including second–hand smoke, alcohol, low fruit consumption and high body fat. For Indians, however, high BP is the third worst threat.
The WHO (World Health Organization) had said that IAP was claiming 5,00,000 lives in India every year, most of whom were women and children. India accounted for 80% of the 6,00,000 premature deaths that occur in southeast Asia annually due to exposure to IAP. Nearly 70% of rural households in India don’t even have ventilation.
More than 3 billion people rely on burning solid fuels to prepare their meals. Burning solid fuels emits carbon monoxide, particulates, benzene and formaldehyde which can result in pneumonia, asthma, blindness, lung cancer, TB and low birth weight.
WHO estimates that pollution levels in rural Indian kitchens are 30 times higher than recommended levels and six times higher than air pollution levels found in the national Capital. Speaking to TOI from London, the study’s lead author professor Majid Ezzati of the Imperial College, London,
said, "South Asia, where India makes up the largest share of the population, really shows the global risk factor transition. The leading risks are both those associated with poverty, such as under–nutrition and not having clean fuels, and those that largely affect chronic diseases like high BP and smoking. This mix is unique among regions." Ezzati said that with India developing economically, "gas and kerosene for cooking is more affordable. What India needs to look into is how to make it available in rural India. " Ezzati finds it a strange dichotomy that while majority of Indians are vegetarians, the intake of fruit is very low.
Sharing the top 10 threats for Asia, mainly India, Ezzati said they include high childhood underweight, diet low in fruits, high blood glucose levels, alcohol use, iron deficiency, sub–optimal breast feeding, low physical activity and occupational injuries.
In 2010, the two most important risk factors globally were high BP, responsible for 9.4 million deaths and tobacco smoking, accounting for 6.3 million deaths. Alcohol use was the third most important risk factor that claimed 5 million deaths. Collectively, dietary factors and physical inactivity were responsible for 12.5 million deaths.