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Dhaka Tribune

‘We don’t want to see fresh air sold in bottles’

Update : 24 Dec 2015, 07:21 PM

In recent years, some of the major hospitals in Dhaka city have been experiencing a rise in the number of patients with respiratory ailments during dry season.

According to doctors, this also means that more people are getting freshly afflicted by respiratory diseases owing to the ever-rising level of air pollution in the city.

Dr Momen Khan, indoor medical officer at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), said: “The number of respiratory ailment-related admissions rises by two to three times during winter than any other season of the year.”

Every year several new faces come to the hospital’s respiratory diseases section which means that the level of air pollution in the city is rising, he added.

“In addition to any other reasons, elements present in the environment such as dust play a strong role in stimulating respiratory symptoms,” said the doctor who works at the biggest public healthcare facility in the country, DMCH.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as two of the most common respiratory disease caused, among other things, by air pollution.

In general, such diseases, which are not curable but can be controlled, are caused by inhalation of toxic agents, accidents, and unhealthy  habits such as smoking. Infections, genetic factors, and anything else that affects lung development, either directly or indirectly, can also lead to respiratory symptoms.

Dr Muhammad Murtaza Khair, consultant of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at the Square Hospital in the city, told the Dhaka Tribune that there has been an overall rise in the number of patients with respiratory problems.

Shahin Khan, salesperson of a drug store named Special Care Pharma in the capital’s Panthapath area, said the sale of metered-dose inhalers, popularly known as just inhalers, also increase during the dry season.

“There are times we cannot sell even a single inhaler in a month. But during winter, we sometimes sell up to 5-6 inhalers in a day,” he said.

A study of the Clean Air and Sustainable Environment (Case) project of the Bangladesh government’s Department of Environment (DoE), found that exhaust from brick kilns is the biggest source of air pollution in Dhaka.

Motor vehicle exhaust and dust, two other big sources, account for 19% and 18% of the city’s air pollution respectively. Other sources of fine particulate pollution are soil dust, metal smelter, sea salt and zinc, the study says.

Yesterday, these data were presented in a keynote speech by Golam Sarwar, chief scientific officer of Case, at a discussion organised by the DoE in Dhaka.

He showed that the level of air pollution in Dhaka city goes to the extreme in the first and the last three months of the year.

According to recent data, there are around 7,000 brick kilns across the country.

“We do not want fresh air to be sold in bottles like mineral water. This is not a symbol of healthy life. So, it is high time that we become careful,” said Raisul Alam Mondal, director general of DoE.

Dr Monjurul Ahsan Khan, director of the Case project, said: “Nobody is immune air pollution. Everyone is highly exposed. If we do not take necessary steps now, then we will be paralysed in the future.” 

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