Ambient pollutants reducing life expectancy, increasing child mortality risk

ISLAMABAD:The unprecedented and accentuating air pollution in the country particularly in Punjab province and exclusively in Lahore has reduced life expectancy and increased child mortality risk due to exceeding levels of hazardous ambient pollutants.

Talking to reporter, Dr Junaid Rashid of Children Hospital Lahore (CHL) said being the biggest children hospital on the globe it had witnessed record visits of 814,434 child patients to the health care as compared to 436,000 patient visits in 2008.

“It’s huge as most of the visiting patients are coming to CHL from outside the city, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and even Afghanistan,” he lamented.

He said, “Indoor patients’ admissions have been recorded 230,422 in 2018 doubled the number noted in 2008. However, 11,750 children with Asthma disease developed have been brought in 2018 which is alarming and requires imposing health emergency across the country not only in one region.”

Senior physician Dr Junaid Rashid in his research in the light of global environmental reports had found augmented vulnerability of infants; children below 5-year and 15-year age were at the verge of developing grim respiratory and health complications.

He said pharmaceuticals visiting hospitals were mentioning increased sale of nebulizers, air pumps and cough syrups due to increase in respiratory issues arising among the children.

“There is no trend of such huge amount of consuming cough syrups around the world. One thing that has been creeping environ is indoor or household pollution whereas research conducted by Agha Medical College has revealed underweight child birth among pregnant women using kerosene oil, coal and wood stoves,” he underscored.

He said the study had further discovered wood particles in carpet, smoking puffs suspended into the air, mosquito killer spray, coils and air fresheners were also causing indoor air pollution which was not realized by masses generally.

“Around the world, 52,000 deaths in children of age cohort 5-15 years have been reported to be air-pollution induced in a year. However, the infant mortality rate under 5-year has been 543,000 deaths per year,” he added.

“There is an urgent need to bring paradigm shift in behaviours and attitude towards environmental issues. Education and awareness stands paramount in mitigating air pollution either ambient (outdoor) or household (indoor) air pollution risks,” he suggested.

Dr Ishaq, a senior doctor based in the federal capital also conducted a research to study the allergic propensity between both the genders of different age groups.

He said ambient pollution no doubt had turned the federal capital into pit of allergy for pollen sensitive patients as earlier due to prolonged rainfalls it reduced the pollen season occurrence but at present with over a dry week going it had increased the number of allergic patients visiting the hospitals.

He said the study was conducted among 140 adults which resulted into 60.7 percent female gender predominating the overall sample of allergy sensitive individuals.

“Around 80 percent patients reported to have respiratory allergies during pollen season and 20 percent throughout the year,” he added.

He advised the citizens to use dust and pollution masks to avoid pollen allergy attacks and also abstain from visiting parks in the evening hours and unnecessary outdoor visits during the season. However, the allergic patients should also avoid soft drinks rather prefer to drink warm water which would help them improve their health.

According to Met Office, pollen concentration had increased gradually and reached the level of 42,292 (per m3of air) in H-8 sector on 28th March, 2019. However, rainy and windy weather conditions were expected in next couple of days which might decrease pollen concentration.