Pollution has a burning issue today and has become a major public health problem because of its impact on human health. According to the WHO, nine out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants and around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air.
Much has been written and talked about the dangerously high levels of air pollution, particularly in Delhi-NCR. The most frequently talked about sources of pollution include vehicular emissions, crop stubble burning, dust on roads, garbage burning, construction activities, industrial emissions, while solid waste as a source of environmental pollution has been relatively under-discussed. Landfills are the most commonly used methods for disposing municipal solid waste.
We at Heart Care Foundation of India undertook a study jointly with Dainik Bhaskar Group and the NGO, Urja to study the impact of solid waste pollution on various health parameters in people living near the landfill sites (within 2 km). Three landfill sites in Delhi were selected as the study sites: Bhalswa, Ghazipur and Okhla. People residing beyond 7 km of the three landfill sites formed the control group: Ashok Vihar, GTB Enclave and Kotla Mubarakpur. Water samples were also collected for analysis.
Compared to the control group, systolic and diastolic BP were found to be significantly higher in the study group, while height, weight, BMI, PEFR, SpO2 before and after 6MWT were lower in the study group compared to the control group. Water samples tested from the landfill areas also showed increased total dissolved solids, hardness and bicarbonate levels indicating ground water contamination.
Ours is an observational study, which focused only on observing the changes in health parameters in different population and makes no attempt to identify a cause and effect association. These findings indicate the health risks of people residing near landfill sites and are significant enough to consider a trial in a larger sample size.
This article is being published in the current issue of the Indian Journal of Clinical Practice.