Valley air worst during rush hour

PRAGATI SHAHI (kantipur epaper)

10 Dec, 2014

Air pollution in Kathmandu Valley is significantly high during the morning and evening rush hour, a new research has shown.

The study found different personal exposure levels to harmful air pollutants based on occupations, activity patterns, time of the day, and the proximity to roads. The worst victims are traffic police whose exposure to the particulate matter that can easily enter the lungs causing severe health impacts is found to be the highest.

Other groups considered in the study were indoor office workers next to main roads and away from main roads living in urban areas, urban residential areas, and semi-urban areas, where the exposure was also found exceeding WHO standards.

The high concentration of harmful air pollutants, especially particulate matters measuring 2.5 micrometres in size (PM2.5) that can easily penetrate deep into the lungs, in the Valley air suggests population creates a substantial health burden.

The study on ‘Air Pollution Exposure and the Human Health Burden in Nepal’ is being undertaken by Anobha Gurung, a doctoral candidate at Yale University, to gauge exposure to air pollution specifically traffic pollution in Kathmandu and the associated human health burden.

The findings of the study conducted between June 28 and August 7, 2009, show the average exposure for the traffic officers standing on the road was 51.2 µg/m3, with an hourly maximum of over 500 µg/m3, exceeding the World Health Organization ambient PM2.5 guidelines of 25 µg/m3.

Gurung, who is conducting a more comprehensive collection of pollution readings from across the urban areas in Kathmandu with the installation of 135 monitoring stations, says season is a large influencer in terms of air pollution with winter being the most polluted period, followed by pre-monsoon and monsoon.

“ Kathmandu is transforming the fastest into an urban city which has negative impacts on the city’s air, ultimately causing severe health impacts on people. Lack of adequate research despite rising air pollution levels is a major public health concern,” she said.

Gurung, who shared the findings at a programme on Tuesday, is studying to understand the variation of long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution for urban areas in Kathmandu .

“Until a decade ago, it was unusual to see people wearing masks except for a handful of Japanese tourists visiting Kathmandu . Now it has almost become impossible to get out of home without masks,” said Bandana Pradhan, associate professor of Community Medicine and Public Health at the Institute of Medicine, Tribhuvan University.

According to her, the number of patients visiting the TU Teaching Hospital has significantly risen in recent years with a majority, especially children and the elderly, complaining of respiratory problems including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases.

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