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Pollution provokes heart attack

Updated: Feb 18, 2019

Pollution provokes heart attack

The bane of pollution is that everybody talks about it but nobody does anything concrete to counter it. For instance, a dilapidated sign board near a hospital says silence zone, no horn please, but drivers merrily keep honking their horns with double vigour when they approach it. Officially allotted time slots for lighting fireworks and crackers during festivities are only on paper as children and adults alike fire them at any time of the day or night they fancy. Such examples are countless.

There is a cynical segment of the population which believes that pollution induced health issues are just grossly exaggerated figments of imagination of NGOs and social activists. Of particular interest cum relevance is the association between pollution and heart attack, given the double dhamaka of Diwali caused by the deadly mix of air and noise pollution. Even quite apart from festivities, where air pollution is high, the level of day-today transportation noise is also usually elevated in an open-ended manner even as car, truck, train and aircraft noise also increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Against this backdrop, a recent study conducted by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, published in European Heart Journal (25 October 2018) is of interest. The study looked at the combined effects of air pollution and transportation noise for heart attack mortality in Switzerland between 2000 and 2008. The study showed that transportation noise increases the risk for a heart attack by 2.0 to 3.4 percent per 10 decibels increase in the average sound pressure level at home. The effects of noise and air pollution are additive and lead to the highest risk for inducing a heart attack.

It is common knowledge yet commonly ignored that middle aged and senior citizens are the most vulnerable to pollution induced maladies, not to mention pets. Ironically it is the so-called festive season of enjoyment such as Diwali and wedding processions that cause the most distress in the seniors when the rest of the family and the neighbourhood are seemingly enjoying the din and cacophony. An elderly person in the family is often made the laughing stock in such instances, totally disregarding the emotional and physical harm caused to the affected individual. A more intense awareness campaign might perhaps help.


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