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Roadside refuse trashing the health of Indians

The health of Indians is being ravaged by the burning of roadside trash piles, a new American study says.

Duke University Professor Michael Bergin, whose lab carried out the study, said that “somebody standing near one of these fires is getting a dose of toxins 1,000 times greater than they would from the ambient air.” He added, “a person would only need to breathe these particles for a minute to get an entire day’s worth of hazardous particulate matter.”

This is not atypical. Heidi Vreeland, one of the study’s lead authors, commented “there are just piles of trash growing larger and larger until somebody decides to take a match to it…in large cities…even in the more affluent neighbourhoods, this is just the norm.“

Earlier this year, the Indian Express reported that rubbish burned at landfills was releasing  pollutants which “are all toxic to humans depending on their concentration and may cause irritation, skin and respiratory problems. Some are carcinogenic.” What’s more, many Indians are unaware of the danger to their health from breathing in the toxic fumes.

These findings are merely the latest interjection in the debate over India’s poor air quality which is a major environmental concern in the country, killing 1.4 million people in 2013.

With China, India accounts for more than half – in total, 55 percent – of deaths from air pollution.

The decision by India to ratify the Paris agreement on climate change at the beginning of October means it is also honour-bound to lessen its dependency on fossil fuels and cut carbon emissions by the year 2030.

However, for Indians to truly reap the health benefits of the agreement, everyday practices such as the burning of trash piles, which endanger their health and wellbeing, must stop.

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