People with compromised lung function are prone to infections like COVID-19, and there’s a high prevalence of respiratory illnesses in severely polluted areas such as Ennore, say experts.
A study done by the National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE) in Ennore indicates ‘a serious threat’ of COVID-19 spread in the area.
Ennore home to a cluster of thermal power plants
Ennore is home to many thermal power plants making the residents more prone to respiratory diseases due to heavy pollution from the power plants.
In fact, one of the four major thermal power plants in Tamil Nadu includes the Ennore Power Plant.
The major problem in Ennore is pollution from coal ash, which contains trace quantities of several toxic heavy metals, and also contains respiratory irritants including silica.
Coal ash dumps in Ennore and the activities of the thermal power plant have already caused many health issues for residents, ranging from irritation in the throat and eyes, runny nose, skin lesions, dry skin to respiratory illnesses, heart attack, pneumonia and lung cancer.
Ennore has high prevalence of respiratory illnesses
The study was conducted last year simultaneously in Ennore, Korba in Chhattisgarh, Udupi in Karnataka and Ropar in Punjab by different institutions, and coordinated by the New Delhi-based Centre for Chronic Disease Control (CCDC)
“The sampling was done in mid-2019. So, it has no direct connection with COVID-19 outbreak. But yes, people in these clusters where a large population is suffering from compromised lung function, are prone to infections like COVID-19,” said Poornima Prabhakaran, an epidemiologist and consultant with the CCDC
“The preliminary analysis shows a high prevalence of respiratory illnesses in people of Ennore,” she added.
“Ennore is an air pollution hotspot with two major ports, thousands of heavy vehicles, 3300 MW of coal power and a 10 million tonne oil refinery. If the virus spreads here, it will have a field day as its target organ -- the lungs and the respiratory system -- is already severely compromised,” said Nityanand Jayaraman, a social activist from Chennai.
He added,“Because this is a poor and working-class area, the government continues to increase the burden of pollution here. Adani is set to build a mega coal port here, and coal power capacity is set to nearly double. Even after the COVID disaster ends, the environmental disaster in this area will continue to take a deadly toll on local lives.”