Karachiites advised to wear masks to combat air pollution

Published December 5, 2023
Drivers have to switch on the lights of their vehicles to navigate through the early morning haze.—Shakil Adil / White Star
Drivers have to switch on the lights of their vehicles to navigate through the early morning haze.—Shakil Adil / White Star

KARACHI: Health experts on Monday urged the general public to restrict their outdoor activities and wear masks to protect themselves from the deteriorating levels of air quality in the city and adjoining areas.

Children and the elderly needed more care and precaution as their immune system was weak, they emphasised.

The advice of the experts associated with the Jinnah Sindh Medical University (JSMU) has come against the backdrop of recent reports ranking Karachi as the third-worst in terms of air quality globally.

They described Karachi’s air quality as “very unhealthy” and advised citizens to reduce the time and intensity of outdoor activities especially during peak pollution times.

Transport system also held responsible for deteriorating air quality

“This is important particularly for children and the elderly who should be asked to stay indoors during peak pollution times. People should wear masks outdoor and use air purifiers indoors,” said Dr Kiran Abdul Sattar, who heads the Institute of Family Medicine at the JSMU.

She also emphasised the need for practicing good hygiene, promoting awareness about the dangers of breathing and driving in smog and fog.

“The accumulation of dense atmospheric particles during the winter exacerbates air quality issues, causing various health problems such as eye allergies, respiratory issues, and throat irritation. People with respiratory conditions, like asthma, may experience worsened symptoms and reduced lung function,” she warned.

The presence of smog, she pointed out, reduced visibility, hampered daily activities and increased the risk of accidents.

“It also diminishes the aesthetic beauty of Karachi’s landscapes and affects outdoor activities and events.”

JSMU Vice Chancellor Prof Amjad Siraj Memon urged the government to implement strict regulations to reduce pollution levels and improve air quality monitoring.

“Individuals can also contribute by advocating for cleaner energy sources and limiting outdoor activities during periods of high pollution. By collectively taking these preventive measures, we can protect children’s health and create a safer environment for their growth and well-being,” he said.

According to IQAir, an international firm monitoring air quality around the world, the particulate matter measurement in Karachi stood at around 200 last week, leading to severe smog and dense fog. A ranking of around 200 makes Karachi air ‘very unhealthy’.

On Monday evening, the concentration of PM2.5 — fine particulate matter now believed to be responsible for nearly four million deaths globally due to cardiopulmonary illnesses and other illnesses — in Karachi was 22.4 times the WHO annual air quality guidelines.

In September, the city was ranked as the most polluted city in the world for two successive days.

Despite experts’ warning over the city’s poor transport system that, they believe, is responsible for half of the city’s air pollution, there is no action on part of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency to improve the situation.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2023

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