Dispensaries and hospitals are witnessing a surge in respiratory tract infections induced by pollution from firecrackers burst during Diwali, but the level of air pollutants is expected to dip in the coming days.
According to System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), particulate matter (PM) in air will come down in the next three days, the condition improving from ‘poor’ to ‘moderate’. On Saturday, PM10, of size 10 micrometres in diameter, ten times thinner than a strand of hair, was 163.4 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³). According to the forecast, PM10 levels are estimated to fall to 142.1 µg/m³ by Tuesday. The levels of PM2.5, which is more hazardous than PM10, stood at 110.6 µg/m³ and is expected to fall to 96.2 µg/m³ in the next three days.
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General physicians across the city said patients started approaching them a day after Diwali. According to Dr Anil Ballani, attached with Hinduja hospital, there was a 15 per cent rise in respiratory infection cases in the last two days. “Those with a weaker lung or a regular smokers may face more problems. We had to give nebulizers for asthma to at least 10 patients,” Ballani said.
Although Diwali celebrations were subdued this year with more compliance with noise pollution norms and less firecrackers, a steady stream of paediatric cases and senior citizens already suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, required out patient treatment. According to SAFAR report, air quality this Diwali “was worse than last year due to higher humidity” that allowed pollutants to remain suspended in the atmosphere much longer.
At Kohinoor Hospital in the central suburbs, 10 patients were treated at the out patient department for breathing problems. “Particulate matter causes inflammation in the respiratory tract which narrows the airway and causes difficulty in breathing. A lot of patients are coming in a state of breathlessness,” said Dr Shahid Barmare, consultant physician with the hospital.
On Wednesday, air pollution was highest in Andheri and Mazgaon, both reporting levels beyond 200 µg/m³. According to standards set by SAFAR, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, levels below 100 µg/m³ are considered good, above 400 µg/m³ are considered ‘severe’ for air quality conditions. The air quality in the city is currently recorded as ‘poor’ with levels of air pollutants ranging between 200 to 250 µg/m³.