Hours of prolonged standing at busy traffic intersections along with being exposed to environmental pollution has led the Pune police to embark on an ambitious project to prepare a health report card of traffic police personnel. Clearly, traffic police are surrounded by significant health threats.
There are a total of 1,100 traffic police personnel for Pune. Sarang Awad, DCP Traffic Control Branch, said between March 13 and 30, at least 500 personnel completed a thorough eye examination. The remaining will undergo a series of tests as soon as the traffic department gets a go ahead from Jehangir hospital for a medical examination.
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Initial findings of the eye check-up camp completed for 380 police personnel showed that a majority suffered from ocular surface disorders. “Redness, irritation and a dry eye are among the major problems that traffic police personnel suffer from,” said Dr Aditya Kelkar, consultant eye surgeon and one of the directors at National Institute of Ophthalmology (NIO) that conducted the check-up camp.
According to Dr Prajakta Barve Modak, ophthalmologist who coordinated the camp, occupational hazards had led to this problem. “By and large, the eye condition of the personnel we examined so far is alright but precautionary measures need to be taken,” she said.
As many as 75 traffic police personnel were adviced to wear glasses, 18 had cataract due to age-related problems, while 60 personnel had problems like dry eye, pterygium (conjunctival growth over cornea) and pinguecula (small mass in conjunctiva). These are mainly environment related health disorders, Dr Kelkar said, adding that some of the ailments were due constant exposure to direct sunlight and pollution.
Authorities are aware of the health risks, especially as traffic police are exposed to respiratory ailments and other diseases. According to experts, different particles and gases from vehicular emissions like carbon dioxide, carbon mono-oxide, sulphur, benzene, lead, nitrogen dioxide and black smoke were the root of the problem. Traffic police officers who work at busy intersections are also at the highest risk of developing respiratory disorders.
A traffic constable from the Hinjewadi traffic division said, “Long hours of duty, especially during heavy traffic, lead to severe fatigue, respiration and eye-related problems. Every day, we work for at least 10 to 12 hours and during the festivals, our weekly offs are on hold and those weeks are the most tiresome.”
While speaking about the precautionary measures taken, he added, “Sometimes masks are available but while wearing the masks one cannot blow the whistle, which one has to do almost every minute. During summers, severe heat is a problem. Sometimes there are long hours of deployments during visits of VIPs. At that time, we are on the streets for a day without any break. Long hours of duty are inevitable in the police force, but our added problem is continuous exposure to pollution, heat and rain.”
A woman traffic police constable said, “Along with issues of breathing and eye irritation, another problem we face is lack of availability of washrooms.”
DCP Awad said several measures would be taken to deal with health issues. “First, we have to ensure that all those who are diagnosed with various ailments get adequate treatment. For that, we are seeking help from various organisations. We have also started to take a regular rotation of duties of traffic police personnel so that they do not have to spend long hours at busy intersections. Also tips like wearing glasses and washing their eyes every two hours have been given,” he said.