Friday, January 25, 2008

BREATHLESS in Bangalore

BREATHLESS in Bangalore
Unplanned growth and increased vehicular population are choking not only Bangalore’s roads, but also its residents, says Prathima Nandakumar

The Garden City literally takes one’s breath away — not only because it is awe-inspiring, but also because it causes asthma. Over 10% of Bangaloreans and over 50% of children suffer from air pollution-related illnesses.
Air quality monitoring stations across the city indicated that the Victoria Hospital zone was the most polluted. A two-day workshop on ‘Environmental health - intervention for mitigating air pollution-related health risk in Bangalore’, organized by Karnataka State Pollution Control Board recently, brought many shocking facts to light.
Both, the IT city and its people are choking, thanks to unplanned growth, increasing vehicular population (with 1,500 new registrations every day) and poor compliance with pollution norms.
While air pollution claims one lakh lives in India and affects the health of 250 lakh every year, Bangalore lacks data of this nature and is yet to come up with an integrated approach to the problem.
Said KSPCB chairman H C Sharathchandra, “We realize raw data is simply not enough. A lot of research on health impacts of pollution is needed. A simpler air quality index is necessary to increase awareness about pollution among people. Indoor air quality is also an important, but neglected area. We need an integrated approach as monitoring and data alone will do no good, unless we act to reduce pollution. Whether vehicles are meeting pollution control norms is also to be examined.’’
Frequent respiratory ailments among children are linked to pollution, feels paediatrician Jagadish Chinnappa. “Pollution aggravates asthma and wheezing lasts longer. Viral infections can only make a situation worse. Many parents take their young children out in traffic, while many children suffer due to adults smoking at home. Indoor air quality is equally important for good health.’’
To add 7 more manual monitoring stations — GoK has sanctioned Rs 15 Lakh. To monitor PM2.5 particulate matter at traffic intersections — CPCB has sanc tioned Rs 20 lakh. Characterization of PM2.5 particulate matter for metals, anions and cations, CO, organics like aldehydes, HCs, PAHs, VOCs, benzene, toluene and xylene. POLLUTION AND HEALTH EFFECTS
Particulate matter (PM) in air is a major health concern as it is small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs, cause inflammation and worsen pre-existing heart and lung conditions. It leads to systemic inflammatory changes, which affect blood coagulability. They can also carry surface-absorbed carcinogens into the lungs.
—Ozone (O 3 ) is produced by a reaction between nitrogen dioxide, hydrocarbons and sunlight. Ozone irritates the airways of the lungs. It produces alterations in breathing patterns.
The principal source of NO 2 is road traffic. When asthmatics are exposed to nitrogen dioxide, they experience broncho-constriction. It lowers resistance to and increases susceptibility to respiratory infections such as influenza.
A major source of sulphur dioxide (SO 2 ) is fossil fuel combustion. It can cause broncho-constriction, irritation in nose and throat.
Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas, which is emitted as a result of combustion. CO prevents the normal transport of oxygen in the blood and this leads to reduction in the supply of oxygen to the heart.
Lead exposure through batteries is linked to impairment of mental faculties and visual motor performance. It also causes neurological damage in children.


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