The Scope

Video: Air pollution is causing fatal heart and lung disease, but possibly also Alzheimer's

The WHO finds that 92% of the world’s population lives in places with unacceptably high air pollution.

At least 600,000 Indians died from the effects of air pollution in 2012, a new study by the World Health Organisation has revealed. Exposure to fine particulate matter of the size width of 2.5 microns or less, commonly referred to as PM2.5, may have aggravated cardiovascular and lung disease leading to these deaths. Even this estimate, the authors of the study say, are conservative.

India ranks second in the most number of air pollution deaths after China and eighth in the number of deaths per 100,000 people due to ambient air pollution.

ALRI: acute lower respiratory disease; COPD: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; IHD: ischaemic heart disease
ALRI: acute lower respiratory disease; COPD: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; IHD: ischaemic heart disease

The WHO released on Monday confirmed that 92% of the world’s population lives in places where air pollution levels exceeded acceptable limits. At least 3 million deaths a year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution. Its also finds that in 2012, 11% of all global deaths or 6.5 million deaths were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution together. Of these, 90% occurred in low- and middle-income countries, with the heaviest burden in south-east Asia and the western Pacific.

But there is also a possible link between dirty air and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom have found millions of magnetite particles in 37 human brain tissue samples collected from pollution hot spots around the world.

These magnetite particles examined, the researchers say, have the same appearance they have as in the atmosphere and so have not been dissolved or broken down in anyway. Magnetite is an iron oxide associated with neurodegenerative diseases

The study made public earlier in September does not claim a definite link between air pollution and Alzheimer’s but offers evidence that magnetite from air pollution, particularly traffic pollution, can get into the brain, and warrants more study.


There air more indications of the serious impacts of air pollution on mental health. Research published in June in BMJ Open has linked air pollution to increased mental illness in children. The study that examined pollution exposure of more than 500,000 children under the age of 18 in Sweden showed that relatively small increases in air pollution were associated with a significant rise in in psychiatric problems.

The WHO has more alarming statistics on the impact of air pollution, particularly in India – 1.4 million people in India die pre-mature deaths due to air pollution. This translates to one air pollution death every 23 seconds.

These statistics have inspired a rather dismal awareness campaign video by Hawa Badlo, a people's movement that operates out of Gurgaon, projecting how a family might live in a toxic 2030 of we don't act to clean up out air now.

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Decoding the symbolic threads and badges of one of India’s oldest cavalry units

The untold story of The President’s Bodyguard.

The national emblem of India; an open parachute and crossed lances – this triad of symbols representing the nation, excellence in training and valor respectively are held together by an elite title in the Indian army – The President’s Bodyguard (PBG).

The PBG badge is worn by one of the oldest cavalry units in the India army. In 1773, Governor Warren Hastings, former Governor General of India, handpicked 50 troopers. Before independence, this unit was referred to by many titles including Troops of Horse Guards and Governor General’s Body Guards (GGBG). In 1950, the unit was named The President’s Bodyguard and can be seen embroidered in the curved maroon shoulder titles on their current uniforms.

The President’s Bodyguard’s uniform adorns itself with proud colours and symbols of its 245 year-old-legacy. Dating back to 1980, the ceremonial uniform consists of a bright red long coat with gold girdles and white breeches, a blue and gold ceremonial turban with a distinctive fan and Napoleon Boots with spurs. Each member of the mounted unit carries a special 3-meter-long bamboo cavalry lance, decorated by a red and white pennant. A sheathed cavalry sabre is carried in in the side of the saddle of each trooper.

While common perception is that the PBG mainly have ceremonial duties such as that of being the President’s escort during Republic Day parade, the fact is that the members of the PBG are highly trained. Handpicked by the President’s Secretariat from mainstream armored regiments, the unit assigns a task force regularly for Siachen and UN peace keeping operations. Moreover, the cavalry members are trained combat parachutists – thus decorating the PBG uniform with a scarlet Para Wings badge that signifies that these troopers are a part of the airborne battalion of the India Army.

Since their foundation, the President’s Guard has won many battle honors. In 1811, they won their first battle honor ‘Java’. In 1824, they sailed over Kalla Pani for the first Burmese War and earned the second battle honour ‘Ava’. The battle of Maharajapore in 1843 won them their third battle honor. Consequently, the PBG fought in the main battles of the First Sikh War and earned four battle honours. Post-independence, the PBG served the country in the 1962 Indo-China war and the 1965 Indo-Pak war.

The PBG, one of the senior most regiments of the Indian Army, is a unique unit. While the uniform is befitting of its traditional and ceremonial role, the badges that augment those threads, tell the story of its impressive history and victories.

How have they managed to maintain their customs for more than 2 centuries? A National Geographic exclusive captures the PBG’s untold story. The documentary series showcases the discipline that goes into making the ceremonial protectors of the supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces.


The National Geographic exclusive is a landmark in television and is being celebrated by the #untoldstory contest. The contest will give 5 lucky winners an exclusive pass to the pre-screening of the documentary with the Hon’ble President of India at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. You can also nominate someone you think deserves to be a part of the screening. Follow #UntoldStory on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to participate.

This article was produced by Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic and not by the Scroll editorial team.