New Delhi, January 27: Barak Obama and his wife Michelle must have smoked at least 20 cigarettes each on Rajpath on 26th January.
At the insistence of Michelle, hubby Barak Obama is on nicotine gum rehab as part of smoking cessation efforts. Hence, Barak was seen chewing most of the time in about two hours that he spent with Michelle in the open to witness republic day parade. But one can not miss the irony- on Rajpath, Michelle too was perforce turned a ‘smoker’. This is the wage even a non smoker in Delhi’s highly polluted air has to pay.
However, air pollution worry for Obama before he came to India was at most a ‘hot air’. One off event of being in Delhi’s polluted air or short term exposure to it can not do perceptible harm to health. Of course it is serious issue for people who live here or at most for Americans who work in US Embassy in Chanakyapuri.
Dr. Vipul Mishra, senior pulmonology and critical care consultant, Pushpanjali Crosslay Hospital, junked the pollution scare hyped in context of Obama visit. He said, ‘there were absolutely no danger of Obama’s and that of his wife Michelle’s health being adversely impacted due to pollution at Rajpath. Such short term exposure even to Delhi air is no risk at all. Of course one who is asthmatic or old people must keep indoors during winter season in Delhi in the event of heavy smog.’
He further said, ‘of course, air quality is a big issue in Delhi because pollution is so heavy here that even a non smoker is estimated to inhale at least 20 cigarettes daily but not for Obama who was in the open just for about two hours. Dr. K.K Aggarwal, Secretary General, IMA said, ‘Air pollution was unnecessarily made an issue in regard to Obama and Michelle’s health. Every Delhite, even if a non smoker, inhales polluted air amounting to smoking at least 20 cigarettes.’
But this is not to say that air pollution in Delhi is no matter of concern. According to experts, air pollution this winter has been one of the worst noticed so far. PM2.5 levels on some days in December were as high as 400 micrograms per cubic meter, about six times the Indian standard, and 11 times the US safe standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter.
Global Burden of Disease’s 2010 report estimates that air pollution is the fifth largest killer in India. According to report, in 2010, about 6,20,000 premature deaths occurred in India due to pollution-related diseases. The World Health Organization urban air quality database last year showed Delhi to be having the highest PM2.5 levels among 1,600 global cities including Beijing. An indoor air purifier company recently claimed that the US Embassy in Delhi has purchased several air purifiers to tackle indoor air pollution.
Barack Obama was seen chewing gum for a large part of the parade. It’s said that Obama’s gum chewing gets more frantic when his craving for nicotine is higher -possibly because of some stress.