Delhi pollution: Researchers warn against playing outdoors

Top medical scientists from USA and UK have advised against any sporting activities in Delhi, which remains engulfed in a thick envelop of smog.

"Our advice would be to avoid exercising in polluted areas, probably the more so in Delhi pollution. This would mean exercising indoors in order to benefit from the beneficial health effects of exercise," Kian Fan Chung, a professor at the National Heart and Lung Institute of Imperial College London, UK told DH in an email interview.

The advisory comes on a day when eight Sri Lankan cricket players took to the fields wearing masks in the second innings of Indian batting at the ongoing test match in the national capital and one of them pace bowler Suranga Lakmal vomited in the field.

"This (the advice against outdoor exercise) would particularly apply to those with heart or lung conditions where the pollution may directly affect these conditions in a detrimental way," said Chung.

"The particle pollution readily seeped into the indoors. So the use of HEPA (high efficiency particulate arrester) filtration in the ventilation system at indoor exercise facilities would be advisable during pollution episodes, too," George Thurston, a professor at New York University's School of Medicine, said.

Thurston was in Delhi in November 2016 when a similar smog choked the national capital. "My personal particle monitor read very high inside my hotel room, too," he said, suggesting how the tiny but deadly dust particles seeped into well sealed rooms.

On Tuesday, Chung along with other UK researchers published a research paper in the Lancet demonstrating how polluted streets may negate the cardiorespiratory benefits of walking in older adults. Thurston coauthored a review on the research paper.

While the Lancet study was done in London with much lower pollution level, the Imperial College professor said another research study is being planned to check if doing physical exercise indoors in Delhi is really beneficial or not.

"A study being set up in Delhi looking at the effects of asthmatic adolescents exercising in Delhi polluted street contrasting with the same exercise in an enclosed room free of pollution. It will answer the question of the advisability of exercising in Delhi polluted environment." he said, but refused to disclose details as it is still in the planning phase.

With a value of 378, Delhi's air quality index borders borders on the severe category (over 400). Two of its four satellites Noida and Ghaziabad are already in the severe category, while Guru gram and Faridabad are very poor.

The situation would not improve in the next 2-3 days and may deteriorate a bit," said Gufran Beig, who heads the Ministry of Earth Science's pollution monitoring wing named System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR-India).

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