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April 7, 2008

World Health Day today


Magazine Desk
April 7, 2008


The World Health Day is being observed on Monday (today) with the theme of climate changes, which were adversely affecting the health of the people.

Mushroom growth of vehicles, presence of a large number of smoke-emitting public transport vehicles and industries were increasing air pollution in the city as the authorities have failed to implement the environmental laws properly.

“Standing at Jama Cloth, Tibet Centre or Gole Market for a few minutes means that you have consumed one whole packet of cigarettes,” said Secretary General Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), Dr Habib Rehman Soomro.

The main culprit behind the climate change was carbondioxide, which is caused by automobiles and industries, said Waqar Ahmed who teaches at the Institute of Environmental Studies, University of Karachi (KU). He said oxide of sulphur, oxide of nitrogen and particulate matters (solid particles in the air) existed in the city in varying degrees. However, the ratio of lead has decreased during the last few years due to unleaded petrol, he added. He said oxide of sulphur existed in the city beyond the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Head Health Safety Environment of KESC, Chander Perkash, said climate changes were occurring due to “bad ozone” formed in “tropo sphere”. He said unfit vehicles were emitting oxides of nitrogen (NOx), leading to volatile organic compound (VOC). He said the bad ozone traps heat emitting from the earth.

Dr Soomro said since last one decade, air pollution caused by smoke-emitting vehicles and industries had increased tremendously in the city, leading to increase in diseases.

“Around 30 percent increase has been witnessed in psychological diseases during the last one decade caused by air pollution,” he believed. He added that around 90 percent vehicles plying on the roads in the city were emitting thick black smoke as the concerned authorities have failed to

implement environmental laws. He said certain amount of lead caused by the pollution could retard mental growth. He said industries located near the residential areas were also causing diseases and there was no check against it.

Director PILER Karamat Ali said the drivers and cleaners were exposed to injurious particles as they inhale fumes emanating from the unfit vehicles for a long period.

He said exposure to polluted air increased the risks of breathing problems and lung diseases. Referring a study conducted by the Pakistan Institute of Labour and Economic Research (PILER) about health of transport workers, he said around 11 percent of rickshaw drivers had breathing problems.

Environmentalist Nasir Panhwar said the climate changes were also causing flooding and cyclones on the one hand and on the other hand leading to drought. He said natural water resources were being degraded and majority of the population had no access to clean drinking water. He said it was reported that 80 percent diseases were caused by filthy water.

According to experts, air pollution causes death of over 22,000 adults and 700 children per year in the country apart from Rs365 billion loss to the economy.

Waqar Ahmed suggested that in order to control air pollution, emissions of vehicles like buses, trucks and rickshaws should be controlled. He said laws and regulations to govern automobile emissions must be formed and implemented.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is observing World Health Day on Monday (today) with focus on the need to protect health from the adverse effects of climate change.

The theme “protecting health from climate change” puts health at the centre of the global dialogue about climate change. WHO selected this theme in recognition that climate change is posing ever growing threats to the global public health security.

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