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Doctors sound caution over deteriorating AQI in Mumbai, advise wearing masks while stepping outdoors

Mumbai's AQI was higher than that of the national capital on Thursday morning.

On Thursday, the PM 2.5 level in Mumbai was measured in the ‘very poor’ category. (Representational/File)
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With the deteriorating air quality in Mumbai, doctors sounded caution and asked people to reinstate the habit of wearing masks while stepping out as followed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Doctors are anticipating an increase in respiratory diseases as the air quality index (AQI) rose to 315 on Thursday morning.

Notably, the AQI was higher than that of the national capital Delhi, which improved to ‘poor, status.

Following the flattening of the pandemic curve citizens have given up the habit of wearing masks.

“The most critical aspect of reducing adverse health effects due to pollution is avoidance of exposure to irritants that cause them. Using personal protective equipment in the form of masks reduces exposure to particulate matter, depending on the efficiency of the mask used,” said Dr Mihir Raman Gangakhedkar, Consultant Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital, Mulund.

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A blanket mask policy, though likely to be effective, may not be feasible, say experts. Instead, it will be better to identify people with increased exposure, and those at increased risk from health complications and encourage them to use masks. “So, if you are likely to be outdoors in a polluted environment for long hours due to your occupation, have a chronic lung disease or heart ailment, or are in the older age group, you should consider using a mask,” Dr Gangakhedkar said.

However, using a cloth or a surgical mask may not be effective in reducing exposure to pollutants.

Dr Lancelot Pinto, epidemiologist and pulmonologist at Hinduja hospital, pointed out that high-efficiency masks like N-95 or K-95 that can help filter particulate matters of 2.5 microns and below are best choices. “One needs to change masks frequently, as pollution of this magnitude can cause frequent clogging of the masks making it difficult to breathe,” he added.

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Dr Pinto chalked down a few precautionary measures to follow especially for those suffering from asthma. Children with asthma should regularly use inhalers, especially when playing outdoors, he said.

On Thursday, the PM 2.5 level in Mumbai was measured in the ‘very poor’ category. An irritant with a PM value of 2.5 is less than 2.5 microns in size has a higher potential to enter the respiratory tract and cause problems.

“Continued exposure to such particulate matters will likely increase the risk of airway diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Additionally, a lot of existing research pointed out a link between the development of lung cancer and exposure to particulate matter. While they can cause various diseases, these particles can also worsen existing disease conditions and impact mortality,” said Dr Gangakhedkar.

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Air pollution is a simmering health issue and warrants measures on a war footing, say experts. “Considering the fact that air pollution can make you prone to a wide range of health problems it should be treated as a health emergency and people should take steps to prevent it,” said Dr Sanggita Checker, Consultant Chest Physician at Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road.

First published on: 08-12-2022 at 20:32 IST
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