State health dept releases advisory as Pune’s air quality drops
The state public health department in Maharashtra has issued an advisory to conduct mass awareness programs and preventive measures due to alarming levels of air pollution. The advisory recommends using face masks, air purifiers, and avoiding outdoor activities during high pollution days. Vulnerable groups, such as children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions, are at high risk. Measures should be taken to manage the health ailments caused by air pollution.
The state public health department on Sunday issued an advisory to all local bodies to conduct mass awareness programmes and take preventive measures following alarming levels of air pollution.
The air quality in most of the cities of Maharashtra has been found to be moderate and poor with the Air Quality Index (AQI) being above 200. As per the officials, poor air quality is likely to cause health ailments in the general public and the vulnerable population. Following this the health department should conduct mass awareness programmes and counsel the vulnerable population to prevent health issues triggered by poor air quality.
Also, measures should be taken to manage the health ailments caused by air pollution, the advisory reads.
Short-term high-level exposures can result in acute health reactions such as irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, along with coughing, wheezing, chest discomfort and acute upper respiratory infections. Long-term exposures to even lower levels of pollution can result in chronic illnesses of respiratory and cardiovascular systems, lung cancer and premature death.
Vulnerable groups can experience more severe effects such as lower respiratory tract inflammation and infection, exacerbation of asthma, bronchitis or exacerbation of chronic illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ischemic heart disease, and cerebrovascular stroke.
Dr Pratapsinh Sarnikar, joint director of health services, said, that vulnerable people and general people can use N95 and N99 face masks to avoid exposure to polluted air.
“A properly fitted mask covering the nose and mouth is helpful. However, the face mask should be replaced regularly,” he said.
“People can also use air purifiers and ensure the clean filters are replaced at regular intervals. Avoid using an air purifier that works by generating ozone as it increases indoor pollution. Air conditioners in buildings and vehicles should be used in re-circulate mode to avoid contact with outside air,” added Dr Sarnikar.
As per the officials children under the age of five years, elderly and expecting mothers are amongst the vulnerable groups. Individuals with predisposed health or medical conditions and those with pre-existing illnesses of respiratory and cardiovascular system etc. are at high risk.
Also, People from low socio-economic conditions with poor nutritional status and those living in conditions of poor housing, using fossil fuels for cooking, heating and lighting purposes have high risk.
People in occupational groups with the possibility of prolonged exposure such as traffic policemen, traffic volunteers, construction workers, road sweepers, rickshaw pullers, auto-rickshaw drivers, roadside vendors, and others working outdoors in polluted settings are at high risk.
Women burning biomass for cooking, and sweeping dust are vulnerable on account of their household work and are amongst the high-risk group.
Tips to protect yourself from air pollution
*Reduce risk from exposure to air pollutants by avoiding places with high pollution like roads with slow and heavy traffic, areas near polluting industries, construction-demolition sites, coal-based power plants, brick kilns etc.
*Follow a healthy diet, with fruit and vegetables rich in antioxidants, and an adequate amount of hydration by drinking water is advocated
*On days with poor to severe AQI, avoid outdoor morning and late evening walks, run, jog and physical exercise.
*Do not open external doors and windows during morning and late evening hours, may ventilate if necessary between 12 pm and 4 pm
*Avoid burning biomass such as wood, coal, animal dung and kerosene
*Use clean smokeless fuels (gas or electricity) for cooking and heating purposes
*If using biomass, use clean cookstoves
*Avoid burning firecrackers
*Avoid burning in the open any form of wood, leaves, crop residues, and waste
*Do not smoke cigarettes, bidis and related tobacco products
*Avoid burning mosquito coils and incense sticks on closed premises
*Practice wet mopping instead of sweeping or vacuum cleaning inside homes
*Consult the nearest doctor in case of breathlessness, giddiness, cough, chest discomfort or pain, or irritation in the eyes (red or watery)