1 in 3 traffic cops on city roads suffers lung ailments: Study
At least 33% of Delhi traffic police officials, deployed on the city’s roads, were detected with breathing ailments while around 23% were diagnosed with stress and hypertension, findings of health checkups conducted for traffic policemen revealed.
The results of a six-month-long health camp organised for traffic officials revealed that around 33% traffic policemen in the national Capital showed signs of asthma, lung congestion, throat irritation and thick sputum. The report also found that 23% officials were experiencing high stress levels and hypertension while some even suffered from low bone density and joint aches.
Police officials from each traffic circle were sent for health checkups at two city hospitals. “These are occupational hazards that come with standing for long hours in the middle of heavy traffic zones. A large number of officials were not even aware of their deteriorating health conditions, their answers to the preliminary questionnaire showed,” the report by Saroj Super Speciality Hospital read.
The traffic department has tied up with other hospitals as well to conduct such checkups regularly. Prolonged exposure to high levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulphur oxide (SOx), the primary toxic gases released through vehicular fumes, is a primary cause of lung-related ailments among traffic officials.
The rising vehicular population in the city – over 1 crore – adds to the rising levels of air pollution as well.
A study detailing the impact of the environment on traffic police officials, published in January 2017, had also showed similar results. The study, conducted by TERI University and the University of Surrey, had suggested that traffic officials have significantly worse respiratory and cardiovascular health than other office-goers.
The study, which compared 523 traffic officials to 150 regular office goers with similar socio-economic backgrounds and age groups, found that 59% of the surveyed traffic officials reported having thick sputum, as compared to 15% of office-goers. Similarly, 45% more traffic officials reported pain in joints and 39% more reported shortness of breath, compared to office workers. While no office-goers reported coughing with blood, 26% of the surveyed traffic officials reported the symptom.
After the study’s findings were released, the department had started distributing pollution control masks to all traffic officials. “We do organise regular health checkups and give our officials safety gear to protect them from the constant exposure to pollution. If any policeman complaints of poor health, we considered transfers as well,” Taj Hassan, special commissioner of police (traffic), said.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy) at Centre for Science and Environment, said constant exposure to Delhi’s deteriorating air quality not only impacts health but also reduces quality of life in the longer run.
“If the average Delhiite is dying 10 years before than those in other cities then these men, who are forced to stay out throughout the day, are dying at a pace two times faster. Unless government comes out with a comprehensive plan for reducing pollution, residents will continue to fall victims to deadly lifestyle diseases,” Roychowdhury said.
Former traffic chief Maxwell Pereira said along with respiratory ailments, officials are under constant stress as they have to deal with instances such as road rage and arguments by motorists.
“The stress level is certainly high but that is a part and parcel of the job,” he said.
Experts suggested intervention by providing safety gear and ensuring regular transfers of officials from high traffic zones so that they are not exposed to hazardous conditions for long periods. “Monetary benefits could also be provided to officials who are stationed at high traffic areas to compensate for the health risks that come with their postings,” Roychowdhury added.