“I could actually taste the air as I breathed. It was faintly sweet and quite unsettling when I thought about it. I was nervous about breathing too deeply and I found myself getting tired of walking for I was purposefully taking shallow breaths.”
This was recalled by a passenger travelling on Air China, arriving in Beijing when it was choked by pollution. Only to find the beautiful city covered by a dark shadow present day and night. Wearing the glimmer of natural beauty but keeping its deadly intentions to itself. Imagine that, or just visit Lahore.
If you are of the opinion that this SMOG, which has plagued most of lower Punjab, is harmless. Think again! In the winter of 1952, in a span of only 18 days, SMOG cost 3,900 lives in London. The name SMOG comes from the combination of the words ‘smoke’ and ‘fog’. It is a mixture of fine particles, smoke, air, ground level ozone, and various hazardous gases making breathing difficult. This form of slow poison infects several cities around the globe such as Ahvaz, Dhaka, and Lahore.
It is responsible for cold, fatigue, headache, chest pain, cough, asthma & allergies, pneumonia and lung cancer. Minor exposure to smog can lead to greater risks of asthma attacks so this is something the asthmatics must avoid. People most affected are the elderly, children, and those with cardiac and respiratory complications. Heavy smog can result in low production of a crucial natural element; Vitamin D. This can lead to a bone disease called Rickets.
And we, as a species, are responsible for it (no surprise there). The main sources of smog are pollutants which are released into the surroundings by: the consumption of gasoline, diesel-run vehicles and Industrial activities, and heating of the environment resulting from human actions (Trump?). A recipe of low temperatures and low speed winds help smoke and fog become stagnant, combining to produce smog.
Unfortunately, during winter, you can only take certain preventive measures to avoid the SMOG’s health hazards.
Plan your outdoor activities.
– Verify the air quality before engaging in outdoor activities by noting the air quality index in your area. If you have a heart or respiratory problem, take your medication with you and follow your doctor’s instructions properly.
– Avoid busy roads, industrial areas, and densely populated areas that use wood, coal, or gasoline fueled heating appliances, especially if you are asthmatic.
– Avoid leaving your home if at all possible and regularly wash your hands and face.
Keep the indoors clean
– Maintain a high indoor air quality by not smoking indoors and fixing water filtration problems.
– Use environment friendly household products and materials. Avoid using appliances that operate on gasoline, propane etc.
It is important to note that these measures are not a solution to this national problem. We must identify this as a national health emergency. The government needs to develop policies emphasizing on emission controls for vehicles, industrial or agricultural activities, and waste management. We need to generate awareness for the cause and contribute our fair share to reducing air pollution in the country. This can be done by walking, cycling, using public transport, or carpooling whenever possible.
For a discussion with professional doctors on this topic, head over to Pliro’s health forum and post a question.