Combating smog: Experts for managing gaseous emissions

Our Correspondent
November 28, 2022

LAHORE:Around seven million people per year die from air pollution worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation , out of which 4.2 million are due to exposure to ambient air pollution,...

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LAHORE:Around seven million people per year die from air pollution worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), out of which 4.2 million are due to exposure to ambient air pollution, including smog.

"In addition, 9 out of 10 people breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits for pollutants, with low-and middle-income countries suffering the most, including Pakistan. Smokers are at greater risk of lung damage by smog and can even end up in reactivation of tuberculosis," said Dr Masood Sheikh, President General Cadre Doctors Association, while addressing a workshop on smog here on Sunday.

Dr Masood Sheikh said that the effects of smog on living organisms will not only harm human and animal health but will also affect the entire environment. Various geographical conditions, global temperature changes, and environmental variations all have an impact on human health and the environment, including animal life. Smog refers to a mixture of smoke particles and solid and liquid fog. It is usually visible as a blackish or yellowish fog that stays suspended in the atmosphere. It is a kind of air pollution and poses serious environmental and health issues in many areas across the globe.

Dr Sheikh said that high levels of ozone in smog irritate the respiratory system, leading to wheezing and coughing. Smog triggers asthma attacks and severely worsens asthma conditions leading to wheezing attacks, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Continuous smog exposure increases the chances of premature death from respiratory ailments and cancers. Smog results in higher incidence of allergies, coughing and irritation in chest, eyes, throat and nose.

After exposure, the affected individuals generally suffer from these effects for a few days. But the particles present in smog keep damaging the lungs even after the irritations go away. Chronic cough can lead to heartburn or a sour taste in an individual’s mouth as well as sore throat, eye pain and common cold. Smog particles contain formaldehyde, butadiene, and benzene - all composed of carcinogens. Inhalation of smog particles is responsible for several premature deaths.

Dr Fatima Majeed, a public health consultant, said that industries and vehicles are the biggest contributors to smog-forming pollutants. Therefore, the best method of reducing smog is to manage gaseous emissions from industries and cars. It is fundamental for industries to use renewable energy sources and manufacture environment-friendly consumer products.

Dr Rana Rafique said that due to smog exposure, pregnant women can give birth to babies with birth defects and low birth weight. Smog exposure leads to some severe birth defects in newborns. These include spina bifida, which is a condition depicting spinal column malfunctions. It also results in anencephaly that refers to a formation defect of a baby's neural tube during development. The baby is born with an incomplete skull and an underdeveloped brain in this condition.

Dr Asad Abbas Shah said that various lung conditions occur due to the harmful effects of smog. These include bronchitis, and pneumonia. This is because smog causes damage to the lining of the lungs and also makes it difficult for individuals to breathe properly. Lung damage can further lead to several complicated health conditions like –Tuberculosis, ARDS (Acute respiratory distress syndrome).

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