When Jyoti Pande Lavakare’s classical vocalist mother was unexpectedly diagnosed with terminal lung cancer on Diwali 2017, her family was shocked. There had been no symptoms, no family history of such cancers. But what was even more horrifying was the casualness with which doctors – attending pulmonologists and oncologists – linked her mother’s lung cancer directly to the polluted air she had been breathing, unsurprised it had remained undetected until it reached this terminal stage.
The dark irony of the situation wasn’t lost on Lavakare, a clean air advocate who had herself only recently discovered the lethal effects of air pollution on the human body and spent the previous three years working with other concerned individuals to spread awareness around air pollution as part of a citizen awareness and advocacy platform called Care for Air that she co-founded with atmospheric scientists, healthcare administrators, public health researchers and lawyers.
Suddenly, she was living the nightmare of everything she knew in theory about the worst health impacts of air pollution – with her own mother. None of the scientific research she had absorbed on air pollution had prepared her for the real life experience of its toxic effects up close and personal. She wrote…