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October 27, 2020

Pollutants increase in air to form smog

Lahore

October 27, 2020

LAHORE:As the minimum temperature starts to go down, the concentration of pollutants has increased in the air of the provincial capital in the form of smog.

The US embassy on Monday at 4pm declared the Air Quality Index (AQI) of the city as 152 AQI, which was termed unhealthy. “Everyone may begin to experience health problem when AQI values are between 151 and 200. Members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects,” the US embassy website warned.

The phenomenon of smog has become a permanent feature of the provincial metropolis and it is necessary for both the government and citizens to take appropriate measures before and during this season for their health.

For the past many years, the smog season starts when the minimum temperature drops while the humidity level increases and this time usually comes near the end of October and continues till end of December every year.

Met officials predicted that presently the humidity level in the city is around 65 per cent while minimum temperature is dropping every day and till the start of November smog season will start.

Air pollution caused by industries, traffic smoke, crop burning and brick kilns is the major contributor of smog, said environmentalists, who believed that a thick layer of smog would take over the city skies in the coming days.

Smog contains pollutants which cause eye/throat irritation as well as difficulty in breathing and public should take precautionary measures such as wearing sunglasses and covering mouth and nose with face masks.

Naseem-ur-Rehman, a senior EPD official, said smog is the chemical reaction of sunlight, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC's) in the atmosphere, which leave airborne particles (called particulate matter) and ground-level ozone. He said Ozone (O3) is a gas that can form and react under the action of light and that is present in two layers of the atmosphere i.e first high in the atmosphere, which forms a layer that shields the earth from ultraviolet rays and second at the ground level.

Usually, in developed world pre-smog health warnings are issued and citizens especially children are directed to stay indoors because smog may result in serious health hazard, especially diseases relating to eyes, lungs and skin, Dr Tariq Chishti, a family physician said.

“People with heart and lungs problems such as emphysema, bronchitis and asthma should avoid going out in smog, Dr Chishti said, adding smog can also inflame breathing passages, decreasing the lung’s working capacity and causing shortness of breath, pain when inhaling deeply, wheezing, and coughing. He said long-term exposure to smog at low levels can affect lungs elasticity and the ability to resist disease, effectively aging lungs prematurely.

Children, the elderly, asthmatics and sufferers of other chronic lungs diseases are more susceptible to smog effects than the general population, he maintained. “There is a dire need for public awareness in this regard as majority of citizens living in low lying and middle class localities do not know much about smog and its dangerous effects,” he said, adding any delay in starting pre-smog activities may turn disastrous.

On the other hand, Environmental Protection Department (EPD) Punjab took several pre-smog measures to minimise its impact, which include closure of all brick kilns from November till December 30. Similarly, the department put a ban on burning crops and all field formations are directed to ensure closure of all smoke emitting industrial units.

EPD officials said that the AQI status of Town Hall has been recorded at 209 while it was much higher at some points including Township Industrial zone, Data Darbar, Badamibagh, GT Road, Sundar Industrial Estate, Yateem Khana, Thokar Niaz Beig, etc. The EPD officials said the measures taken by the department will help in controlling smog.