Time To Unite Against Air Pollution As COPD Takes 3.23 Million Lives Worldwide


Time to unite against air pollution as COPD takes 3.23 million lives worldwide

PESHAWAR, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 20th Sep, 2023 ) :Kharay Bibi (70), a resident of Pabbi Nowshera district, who was brought in precarious condition at Lady Reading Hospital's Emergency Ward due to shortness of breath, has lost battle for life after she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

"My mother was busy at breakfast when she suddenly fell down and became unconscious. We rushed her to Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar where she was diagnosed with 4th stage of COPD and malaria positive that later proved fatal for her life," said Jamila Bibi, an elder daughter of the victim while talking to APP here Wednesday.

Battling for life for nearly 15 days at LRH, Kharay Bibi alias Hussan Zadagai spent her last days at different wards including emergency, acute medical unit (AMU) and pulmonary and left the mortal world on the fateful day of September 6, 2023.

"The doctors tried to save my mother's life but the cruel COPD deprived me of my beloved mother forever," Jamila said while tears rolled down her face. "COPD is a common lung disease, which restricts airflow by causing severe breathing problems of a patient," said Dr Malik Riaz Khan, senior chest and children specialist at Govt Rashid Hussain Shaheed Hospital Pabbi Nowshera while talking to APP on Wednesday.

"The incurable disease first damages patient's lungs or clogged with phlegm with persistent cough, severe difficulty in breathing, wheezing and tiredness mostly caused by air pollution and unhealthy lifestyle in poor countries." COPD is the third leading cause of death in the world that will claim about 3.23 million lives by 2019, he said. Approximately 148,512 people died from the killer disease in 2020, making it the sixth overall leading cause of mortality rate behind heart, cancer, COVID-19, accidents, and stroke.

In Pakistan, he said about 138.2 per one lakh males and 41.3 per 100,000 among females die due to COPD and Asthma-related diseases. In mild to moderate COPD, most deaths occur due to cardiovascular disease and lung cancer, but as COPD severity increases, respiratory deaths also increase mostly in third-world countries including Pakistan.

"The estimated prevalence of COPD and asthma are about 2.1% and 4.3% respectively in third world countries including Pakistan," he said, adding existing care at public health facilities at tehsil and districts level needs to be improved both in coverage and quality for facilitation of patients.

Dr Riaz said nearly 90% of COPD deaths in those under 70 years of age occur in low- and middle-income countries due to unhealthy lifestyle and air pollution. "Tobacco smoking accounts for over 70% of cases in high income countries while in lower middle-income countries tobacco smoking contributes for 30 to 40% of cases where household air pollution is a major risk factor." He said about one in four individuals were likely to be diagnosed and receive medical attention for COPD during their lifetime due to the increase of air pollution, mostly from millions of vehicles and brick kilns emitting smoke.

There was a need to check the health of the vehicles and a ban on smoke-emitting vehicles in big cities like Peshawar should be immediately imposed to curb COPD. Similarly, brick kilns operating in the surrounding of Peshawar and stone-crushing marble factories on Warsak Road should be shifted to remote areas to avoid such pollution-related diseases in future in the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

"COPD is not curable but its symptoms could be improved by avoiding smoking, exposure to air pollution and vaccination to prevent such fatal infections through better medication, oxygen and pulmonary rehabilitation. If COPD is diagnosed at an early stage, he said a patient could easily live for 10 to 20 years after diagnosis.

Dr Riaz said there are several treatments available for its patients including inhaling of medicines that open and reduce swelling in airways, adding bronchodilator inhalers was the most important medicine for its treatment as it keeps the airways open for a longer time.

He said steroid pills and antibiotics were often used to treat flare-ups while oxygen was mandatory for people who have severe COPD. Dr Riaz said most people linked COPD with asthma and used the wrong medicines that complicating treatment of the former at a later stage.

He urged the media and civil society to create awareness among the masses against the fatal disease. He urged writers, columnists and feature writers besides digital media to continuously write and prepare videos against COPD for education of the masses. He said together 'we can take control of COPD." APP/fam .