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  Smog fuels spike in asthma, allergy cases

Smog fuels spike in asthma, allergy cases

Published : Nov 7, 2016, 1:34 am IST
Updated : Nov 7, 2016, 1:34 am IST

People wear masks during a rally to demand immediate action to fight air pollution in New Delhi on Sunday. (Photo: Biplab Banerjee)

People wear masks during a rally to demand immediate action to fight air pollution in New Delhi on Sunday. (Photo: Biplab Banerj
 People wear masks during a rally to demand immediate action to fight air pollution in New Delhi on Sunday. (Photo: Biplab Banerj

People wear masks during a rally to demand immediate action to fight air pollution in New Delhi on Sunday. (Photo: Biplab Banerjee)

Cases of severe breathlessness, asthma and allergy have sharply risen in Delhi as the city remains blanketed in thick layer of toxic air due to the worst smog in 17 years.

Doctors and experts say that besides spike in fresh cases, health complications have aggravated in people having a history of asthma, allergy or other related ailments.

“Earlier, 15-20 per cent pollution-related ailment cases were reported at our hospital. But now these have gone up to 60 per cent. The most common problem is related to respiration. But this time we are seeing a rather large number of cases of severe breathlessness, coughing and sneezing and bronchiolitis due to the smog,” says Dr S.P. Byotra, senior consultant and chairman of the department of medicine at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH).

The dense cover of grey haze shrouding Delhi for almost a week, reminiscent of the 1952 Great Smog in London, on Sunday plunged the city’s air quality to the season's worst, with even the 24-hour-average threatening to go past the maximum limit. The real-time readings of respirable pollutants PM 2.5 and PM 10 breached the safe standards by over 17 times at many places. The hourly AQI (air quality index) of monitoring stations run by CPCB and SAFAR remained 500 plus, which is beyond the maximum limit.

Meanwhile, chemists in the national capital are stocking up on air masks post environmental emergency the capital faces. Gasping for fresh air, Delhiites have been running off to the market to get masks to filter out poisonous air. The sales of all types of masks have seen an upsurge in the week after Diwali.

While Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has termed Delhi as a “gas chamber” and sought Centre’s intervention in mitigating the alarming levels of smog, Delhiites are facing a volley of respiratory crisis.

Some schools in Delhi-NCR have also issued advisories for parents to ensure that their children use masks.

Jai Dhar Gupta, owner of Nirvana Being that sells Vogmasks in India, says: “The demand is so much that we finish through our supplies by mid-day and have to replenish our stocks. We generally stock masks around Diwali every year, but this season, the demand has multiplied like 10 times.”

The masks that are available at prices ranging between Rs 90 and Rs 2,200 are available in various designs and patterns. The starting range of masks include the ones that are meant for one-time use while the high-priced ones are fitted with air filters and claim to be able to stop over 99 per cent of the pollutants as well as bacteria and viruses from entering the user’s nostrils. The masks come in five sizes — from XS to XL — depending on the height and weight of the user.

Sudesh Mehta of Srishti Medicos in Gurgaon says, “Various companies in the city have also been placing bulk orders for distribution of masks to their employees and hence the product has been running out of stock for individual buyers for over the counter sale.”

Delhi-NCR residents are also trying to place online orders for the masks through e-commerce websites but the delivery time is too long.

“Since I could not procure a mask from a store, I have placed an order online, but the website says it will be delivered in a week’s time. May be it will not be worth getting it then as the air quality may improve by then,” says Kaumudi Das, a software engineer staying in Rohini.

The Delhi government has also decided to procure 15 to 20 vacuum cleaning road machines on an immediate basis aimed at bringing down dust particles in the air.

The government has floated short-term tenders to procure such machines to immediately find a solution to the increasing dust pollution in the capital.

The report of the IIT-Kanpur study titled “Source Apportionment Study of PM2.5 and PM10” had recently identified dust and trucks as the largest contributors behind Delhi’s polluted air.

“Public Works Department is expecting to hire about 15 to 20 mechanical dust road sweepers through short-term tender process. Such machines will be hired till March next year.

“Besides, the government is planning to have long-term tenders to hire vacuum cleaning machines so that there is a permanent solution to deal with dust pollution,” sources said.

Last week, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia had directed the PWD to re-introduce within two weeks vacuum cleaning on 1,250 km of roads under the agency. The vacuum cleaning of roads was stopped following the monsoon.

The government has also plans to install mist fountain at five important traffic intersections considered to be the most polluted areas of the city.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi