Lung ailments on rise in Valley

Shweta Malla

Kathmandu, April 7:

Growing number of vehicles in the Valley is causing an alarming increase in pollution. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), irreversible damage to the lungs, has become a real threat and people living in congested areas are more vulnerable to it. COPD encompasses two groups of lung disease: chronic bronchitis or emphysema and destruction of lung tissue. COPD prevalence increases with age, but there is a dramatic synergy with smoking such that smokers have higher COPD prevalence and mortality. Smokers are reported to have a 45 per cent higher risk of COPD as compared to non-smokers.

Dr Arjun Karki, chest specialist at Patan hospital said 40 -60 per cent of pulmonary cases are COPD-related. He added, "COPD is an incurable disease which affects the heart if it continues to progress. Continuous exposure to dust can also lead to COPD and only highly-sophisticated dust masks can prevent it." In Patan Hospital, the number of COPD patients has doubled over the past five years. Records indicate that brick kilns are another source of air pollution. Dr Karki apprehended cases of lung cancer and COPD would spiral in the next few years.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Report 2000, lower respiratory tract infections, COPD, tuberculosis and lung cancer are each among the leading 10 causes of death worldwide. Comparison of data collected by ENPHO in 1992 to that collected recently by air quality monitoring stations indicates that PM10 level in Putali Sadak has tripled over the last decade.

"PM is a particular matter and 10 refers to the diameter. If PM is more than 10, it will settle on the ground. If less, it remains suspended in air, the most suitable habitat for micro-organisms also known as airborne microbes," said Shabi Shah, MSc IInd year, Tribhuvan University. Bhushan Tuladhar, environmental expert and executive director of Clean Energy Nepal said, "The topography of the Valley is such that free circulation of air is not easy. Thus, polluted air keeps hanging in the atmosphere for long periods." He added electrical vehicles could be helpful as diesel exhausts are very harmful.

The Nepal Standard Act and the Environment Protection Regulation are seeking to control air pollution by means of command and control approaches. There is, however, no coherent legislative framework to control air pollution. Haphazard urbanisation and population boom due to increased inflow of migrants are key factors contributing to increase in air

pollution, thus inviting more chances of COPD.