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Sep 15, 2011 at 01:17pm IST

Lung cancer on rise in Delhi due to air pollution

New Delhi: Air pollution in Delhi is at an all time high and causing a dramatic increase in the number of cases of lung cancer. AIIMS figures have found that out of 13,000 new cancer cases each year, almost one-third are in non-smokers. The study has found that the Delhi cancer registry has recorded a 2 to 3 per cent rise in lung cancer cases each year.

Anumita Roychowdhury of Centre for Science and Environment said, "The study is very worrying. This is clearly due to vehicular pollution. People have grown complacent because you cannot see smoke any longer, air pollution is invisible."

Perhaps that's not surprising, given that over the past 20 years, an additional 60 lakh vehicles have rolled out on Delhi's streets and there are at least 69 lakh registered vehicles plying.

As a result not only has the air pollution gone up overall, but that includes dangerous substances as well from Nitrogen oxides to tiny particulate matter, that can cause asthma and cancer.

Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Dr V M Katoch said, "There are studies that have linked air pollution to heart problems, resp problems and other multi organ failures."

Environmentalists have referred to this as invisible pollution.

"To give you an example, the diameter of strand of human hair is 50 microns and the particulate matter that is there in the air is only 2.5 micron. You can't see it and it gets absorbed deeper into your system," Anumita said.

The health effects are hitting home at very young ages. More than 40 per cent of Delhi's school kids have reduced lung function, according to a study by Chittaranjan National Cancer institute in 2010.

Delhi's CNG revolution ten years ago had its impact, but experts say even that is being reversed now. The need of the hour are stricter emission norms, reducing the number of vehicles and scaling up public transport.

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