Breathing bad air

Kathmandu

If one wants to stroll on the roads of the City, one has to immediately give up one's desire. The reason is none other than air pollution. "Kasto dhulo," (So dusty) is a common phrase that most of us utter and hear all the time. The air around is polluted and along with the pollution of the air we are experiencing different health problems. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), "Air pollution is contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere."

Sources of pollution

Household combustion materials, vehicular emissions, industries and forest fires are some of the common sources of air pollution. Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide are some of the toxic gases that are found in the air. Along with these, the ongoing construction work have been a reason for triggering air pollution in the Capital. When one is exposed to polluted air, there are chances for one to suffer from Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS).

"It is an asthma-like syndrome. It develops after exposure to polluted air. One is likely to experience coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath," informs Dr Khem Raj Bhusal, Consultant Physician at Green City Hospital, Basundhara and Manmohan Memorial Teaching Hospital, Swoyambhu.

Allergies and psychological effects

The polluted air we breathe has an impact on incidences of allergies. It could lead to both skin allergies and eye allergies. "Rashes are likely to appear when people are exposed to polluted air. Burning and irritation in the eyes are quite common," adds Dr Bhusal.

Not only allergies but there chances for one to suffer from psychological effects too when one is exposed either for a brief moment or for a long time to polluted air. "People are likely to experience anger, anxiety, irritation, headache because of the polluted air," reveals Dr Bhusal. They are also likely to suffer from chronic anxiety if they are exposed to the polluted air for a long time. Those living in areas with air pollution are under high risk to suffer from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. When one is exposed to nitrogen dioxide, then there are more chances for one to suffer a heart attack, as per the doctor.

Exposure to air pollution can lead to respiratory infections in children. The WHO, in its website (www.who.int) adds, acute lower respiratory infections, in particular pneumonia, continue to be the biggest killer of young children and this toll almost exclusively falls on children in developing countries.

Air pollution has adverse effects on growing children. Pollution is likely to make an impact on the development and functioning of the lungs of children, as per Dr Bhusal. Childhood asthma is also associated with air pollution.

Indoor pollution

There is a high risk for one to suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and lung cancer when one is exposed to the air pollution. "COPD is usually seen in smokers but here in our country as there is indoor air pollution (such as cooking on fires), it is also seen in non-smokers too. Females are more prone to COPD as they are the ones who usually work in the kitchens," shares Dr Bhusal.

When exposed to polluted air people are prone to suffer from pneumoconiosis. It is a general term given to any lung disease which is caused by dust.  The most common mineral dust that cause pneumoconiosis are coal dust, asbestos and silica (rock and sand dust). There is also a high risk for one to suffer from lung cancer when people are exposed to such mineral dusts.

People who walk on the roads, work in a dusty environment, ride motorbikes are more prone to the health problems caused by air pollution.

In addition to these, people with a weakened immune system are also more prone to get affected.

"Neonates and the elderly should be given much care and attention," informs Dr Bhusal.

People living in city areas too are under bigger risk to suffer from air pollution effects. The use of face masks is an option to protect oneself. Vaccines for influenza and pneumonia are also helpful.

So as to decrease air pollution in the Capital, Dr Bhusal suggests, "Air pollution should be monitored and controlled. There should be a good coordination between the departments concerned of the government regarding the construction and development works so that pollution of the air can be controlled."