Bengaluru’s respiratory health at risk

Published on November 24, 2023 by

Particulate matter from vehicles and construction is deteriorating respiratory health in the city. 


Indian council for Medical research(ICMR)data for Karnataka shows that approximately 40 percent of deaths by pulmonary diseases occur as a result of particulate matter in the air. Karnataka State Pollution Control Board(KSPCB) reports say Bengaluru’s PM 2.5 levels exceed the national safety standards by approximately one and a half times. This causes major discomfort for people facing respiratory issues.


 Rumana Khanum, a Tuberculosis patient, says “Whenever I step out and there are cars I can’t stop coughing. My Tuberculosis has gotten worse because of pollution. I can’t breathe when there is a lot of smoke. I always have to wear a mask.” 


A report by the Centre for Study of Science technology and policy (CSTEP) found that vehicle exhaust and on-road dust amount for a combined 70 percent of total particulate matter in the air,  followed by industrial emissions and open waste burning. Congested areas like Jayanagar, HSR Layout, Mysore road and Hebbal have the highest concentration. 


Pulmonologist Dr. Raghu B.P explains that long term exposure to PM 2.5 pollutants increases the cases of bronchitis and asthma in patients. He says, “As the particulate matter concentration is rising, I can observe more patients coming with acute cases of bronchitis and asthma, especially people from industrial and high traffic areas. Particulate matter can even cause mortality. People in the occupational age-group of 25-40 face the most discomfort.”


 A 2022 research by CSTEP puts forth that up to 1200 lives in Bengaluru can be saved annually if strict interventions for air quality are put in place. Environmentalists point at the various measures that can be adopted by the public to curb this increase. Dr. R. Subhramanian, sector head air quality at CSTEP urges people to choose cleaner modes of transportation, “Metros are a great way to commute, but last mile connectivity is still an obstacle. Probably the authorities can find out newer ways to incentivise last mile connectivity, electric rickshaws could come to the rescue. Also, if someone really needs to buy a personal car, then please go electric.” 


A senior scientist at KSPCB recommends that better enforcement of construction guidelines, restricting the number of new vehicle sales and registrations, allowing for a shift in vehicle ownership and travel mode choices are some measures that can help improve air quality and subsequently reduce respiratory diseases as a result of particulate matter suspension. KSPCB also predicts a change in national ambient air quality standards this year. 

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