40% decline seen in lung capacity during smog episodes
People in Punjab have been suffering from three to four times more respiratory conditions, says a researcher who has been studying smog data since 2016.
Dr Zulfiqar Ali is an Associate Professor for Environmental Health at University of Punjab. He has been collecting data on smog in Punjab since 2016 and his findings conclude that there is a three to four times increase in respiratory diseases. This in turn causes a same rise in mortality.
Dr Ali said that they have measured the lung quality of people during smog episodes and it shows about a 40 percent decline in capacity. “The worst affected are people with asthma, cardiovascular diseases and TB,” he said. It is cause of major concern as all three of these are the top causes of mortality in Pakistan. He points that there is a very high chance that the fuel marketed as lead-free is not fully purified and the resulting lead pollution affects the human brain.
Poorly ventilated spaces make us susceptible to respiratory diseases but studies prove that poor air quality is actually the main reason why allergies and respiratory diseases are among the top causes of mortality in Pakistan.
According to data shared by AirVisual, the air quality of most Pakistani cities falls in the “unhealthy” category.
Dr Rana Jawad Asghar, epidemiologist and surveillance system expert, says bad air quality is, “One of the biggest yet least-recognized factors of respiratory complications amongst our people.” He says bad environmental quality is also one of the reasons why people have shorter life spans, about 67 years on average in Pakistan.
Dr Sohail Akhtar, a professor of Pulmonology at Indus Hospital, notes that asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are the most common effects of exposure to polluted air. “Pollution is directly responsible for exacerbation of these diseases and indirectly related to mortality,” he says. There is no documented data with regards to the harm caused by air pollution but if we look at general numbers for all ages combined, lower respiratory tract infection is the fifth biggest reason of mortality, as reported by Pakistan Institute if Health Metrics and Evaluation. Also, Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) are most common amongst children under the age of five and constitute about 20-30 percent of deaths, as reported by World Atlas.