Non-smoker lung cancer cases in Delhi-NCR have spiked: Doctor

Shivnarayan Rajpurohit
Speakers at the event agreed that the argument of economic cost to combat air pollution is untenable.

With Delhi-NCR experiencing its worst episode of air pollution in the last three winters, a surgeon from Sir Ganga Ram Hospital Wednesday said the number of non-smoker lung cancer patients has increased four-fold in the national capital since 1988.

Dr Arvind Kumar, founder-trustee of the Lung Care Foundation and chairman of Centre for Chest Surgery at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said, “When I started operating on cancer patients in 1988, I found their lungs were pink. At the time, 90% of the lung cancer patients were smokers and the rest non-smokers. Now, the ratio stands at 50:50. Half my cancer patients are non-smokers. Worse, the lungs of almost all patients are dotted with black spots.”

He was speaking at a conference, titled ‘Sustainable Action Dialogue on Air Pollution’, organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

Speakers at the event agreed that the argument of economic cost to combat air pollution is untenable. “As per a 2016 World Bank study, India lost 8.5% of its GDP in welfare and labour productivity due to air pollution. So you shouldn’t let anyone get away with the argument that air pollution is very expensive to deal with,” said Mitch Bernard, interim president and general counsel of Natural Resources Defense Council, a US-based advocacy group.

Just like Delhi, Los Angeles in California was blanketed by smog in the 1970s. “It was a concerted effort that helped clean LA’s air. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency, the leading environment agency in the US) said for every dollar invested in air pollution control programme by LA, the return was $30 in terms of health and increased productivity,” said Bernard.

Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change C K Mishra said it is better to have a cleaner air than a booming economy and noxious air to breathe.