‘COPD a serious health problem among the elderly’

Bhubaneswar: Amidst the clamour for clean air and a pollution free environment, an expert has said that Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) had emerged as a serious health problem among the elderly.

“Though smoking is responsible for approximately 80 per cent of all COPD cases, air pollution causes the condition to advance and aggravate,” Dr Gitanjali Kar, a chest physician, said in a paper at the 12th CHESTCON, the annual conference of experts in pulmonary medicine which concluded at the Institute of Medical Sciences and Sum Hospital here on Sunday.

The theme of the two-day conference this time was ‘pollution free air’.

Quoting a WHO report, Kar said around 2.4 million people died each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution while Carbon Dioxide was one of the main pollutants of the ambient air, the source being automobiles, industries and other activities which involved the burning of fossil fuel.

Pointing out that automobiles were the biggest source of air pollution, she said the same had been linked to several adverse health effects including exacerbation of asthma symptoms, diminished lung function, adverse birth outcomes and childhood cancer.

However, individual reaction to air pollutants depended on the type of pollutant a person was exposed to, the degree of exposure and the individual’s health status and genetics, Dr Kar said.
The people most susceptible to air pollution included those with heart or lung diseases, pregnant women, outdoor workers, children under the age of 14 as their lungs were in developing stage and athletes who exercise vigorously outdoors.

A very effective means to reduce air pollution was the transition to renewable energy, she said.
Addressing the inaugural function as the chief guest, Prof (Dr) Amit Banerjee, vice chancellor of the SOA University said pulmonary medicine was rapidly and decisively emerging as a medical super speciality with particular emphasis on fields like sleep disorders, occupational lung disease, lung cancer and the dangerous fall out of environmental pollution, particularly leading to bronchial asthma.

He said his plea to doctors as well as medical students was to utilize the expertise and diagnostic modalities available with pulmonary medicine specialists.

Prof Narayan Mishra, President of the Odisha Chest Society presided over the session which was addressed by Prof DK Roy, Medical Director of IMS and Sum Hospital and Prof PK Mohanty, Medical Superintendent of the hospital. Prof RN Mania, organising secretary of the conference also spoke.