Caught in a haze of dust

Caught in a haze of dust

When Natalia, a team lead in Tesco, waited for her office cab at the compound of her HBR Layout house last week, little did she know that she was sitting on black dust. “I thought it was hair and dusted it off,” she laughs and adds, “When I went on the terrace the next day, it was still there. It was only when someone sent me a link on it that I figured it had fallen across the City.”

Even Ann Rodricks, a freelance film-maker, was taken aback when she saw a pile of black ash collected on her car. “I wondered where it came from,” says the resident of Davis Road. “In fact, my son’s garage on Hennur Road was full of it. Though I didn’t think it would be harmful as it wasn’t heavy enough, you never know,” she adds. But what bothers her is the amount of dust in general in the City. “Before, I’d drive on the roads with open windows but now, I can’t afford to,” she remarks. 

Medical practitioners agree that the dust could lead to a number of health complications. Dr Patil, a pulmonologist, has been treating a number of patients suffering from chronic cough, bronchitis and asthma of late. “Dust also causes runny nose and irritation in the eyes,” he explains. Speaking of the black dust found in the City, he says, “If it was caused by the burning of grass as reports stated, it could be really harmful and lead to respiratory problems.”

Dust also causes skin diseases, dandruff and cracked heels. 

Says Dr Sujay Shanthakumar, a dermatologist, “Skin diseases like atopic dermatitis, urticaria and airborne contact dermatitis are caused due to dust. It’s better to use masks in dusty areas and wear socks while travelling. Also ensure you wear slippers at home and use a moisturising cream regularly.”

 Says Vaman Acharya, chairman, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, “Around 40 per cent of the dust is caused by vehicles while 20 per cent is road dust and 14 per cent comes from generators.” He informs, “Its thickness is classified into 10 micrometers and 2.5 micrometers in diameter. While road dust and construction waste cause thick dust that leads to throat allergies, vehicular emissions are the reason for thin dust, which is highly dangerous as it can reach your lungs and can cause bronchitis and the epithelial cells to break.”  

The board is taking steps to discourage diesel vehicles and encourage Bharat IV vehicles, he informs. 

“We have informed the public transport vehicles to opt for compressed natural gas (CNG). Even heavy vehicles are supposed to ply only on the Outer Ring Road. But citizens also need to ensure that they keep the roads clean and not burn garbage,” he adds. However, about the black ash, he notes, “We got calls regarding that but by the time my officers went, it was too late.”

The citizens have noticed the rising dust in the air too. Shloka Shetty, an HR professional who travels from Old Madras Road to Whitefield, has often been a “victim of dust pollution”. “While commuting, we have to pass dug-up roads, which have a lot of dust around. In fact, I’ve been coughing for a long time and it doesn’t seem to slow down,” she adds.

Dr Nazeeb Imrana, who has taught environmental science, says, “When trees are cut, the soil becomes loose. So there is no root holding it when the wind blows. The construction works add to the dust too,” she explains. Dr Nazeeb has some advice for vehicle and factory owners. “Vehicular emission must be checked regularly. Also, factories should refilter and reactivate gases like carbondioxide instead of releasing them,” she adds. Air conditioners must be cleaned on time too, she feels. “Air conditioned offices are always closed and these ACs accumulate a lot of dust and are rarely cleaned,” she notes.

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