PESHAWAR: The Environmental Protection Agency claims the level of Particulate Matter (PM2.5), which increases the age-specific mortality risk, has breached the guidelines of the National Environmental Quality Standard (NEQS) in Peshawar.

“The PM2.5 at all sampling locations in Peshawar is higher than the limits of NEQS. The biggest impact of particulate air pollution on public health is understood to be from long-term exposure to PM2.5 (10-15 years), which increases the age specific mortality risk,” says the EPA’s findings.

Currently, the minimum level of PM2.5 in the air of Peshawar is 40 and the maximum 90, while the NEQS recommends that level of tiny particles in the air should not be more than 15 micrograms per cubic meter. Rise of PM2.5 in the air becomes hazardous for human health and also reduces visibility.

“The level of PM2.5 is four times higher in the air of Peshawar than the NEQS limit, which is alarming. It requires joint efforts to reduce level of pollution,” said EPA director general Dr Mohammad Bashir Khan.

Official pushes govt, people for teaming up to control dust, vehicular emissions

He said: “We can’t blame single factor or sector for the soaring level of pollution in the air.

The vehicular emissions, waste burning, construction work, debris, dust, broken roads, poor collection of waste, smoke discharged from brick kilns are contributing to air pollution.”

The EPA tested air samples at 28 different locations in the provincial capital. According to the study level of Carbon Monoxide is within NEQS limits. Percentage of Nitric Oxide (NO) in the air is also within NEQS limits at all location except two area; Kohat Road and Ring Road because of high vehicular traffic.

Quantity of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) at all 28 points has exceeded NEQS limits. High percentage of NO2 can cause lung irritation, and weaken the body’s defense against respiratory infections. However concentration of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) in the provincial capital is within limit.

Medical experts define PM2.5 a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets that get into the air. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.

Director Medical of Lady Reading Hospital Dr Mukhtiar Zaman Afridi said that excess of PM2.5 in the air could cause affect from nose to lungs. He said after inhalation, those tiny particles deposited in human body and caused different diseases.

“The duration of how long one remains in this environment is very important. It affects people like shopkeepers, policemen and residents who are exposed to PM2 for a longer duration,” he said, adding that heavy concentration of pollutants in the air caused high blood pressure and other complications.

“The number of patients is increasing because of air pollution in Peshawar,” said Dr Afridi, a pulmonary disease specialist. After passing through the respiratory system these tiny particles deposited in lungs, he added.

The EPA DG said thousands of light and heavy vehicles were running on the city’s roads on daily bases.

“Tiny particulates dispersed into the air as a result of tires rubbing off the road surface also pose threat to health,” he said, adding that heavy traffic especially unfit machines also discharged emission and created dust in urban areas.

The population of private vehicles is rapidly increasing in Peshawar and other urban centres and towns of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa statistics development, the total number of vehicles in Peshawar is 577,232 including 212,439 motorcycles and scooters, 95,703 jeeps and cars and 21,446 buses, mini-buses and coasters.

Brick kilns in the surroundings of Peshawar are considered main source pollution, discharging thick black smoke. Around 650 brick kilns operate around the city in which coal and used tyres are burned.

The heavy traffic, especially motorcycles, is considered another active agent of air pollution in the city. In the absence of proper transport system, motorcycles have become basic and affordable means of transportation.

Officials in the excise and taxation department said on average, 110 motorcycles were registered in Peshawar every month.

Dr Bashir suggested that the government bodies and citizens work together to control dust and reduce vehicular emissions to keep air clean from pollutants otherwise heavy smog could envelop Peshawar in next few years.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2016


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