29 April 2010
By Pratibha Masand
“Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) in the atmosphere–which can also be seen in a sun beam, if increased beyond limit, can cause trouble in the respiratory tracts. Construction, especially breaking down of an old building, which is now normal, is a major factor in increasing the number of SPM in the atmosphere,” said Dr Neelam Rane, professor of physiology at D Y Patil Medical College.
Different sizes of particles may affect different parts of the respiratory system. “Particles that are 5–15 microns in size affect the upper parts of the respiratory tract like nose, sinuses, throat, bronchii (small air ways). Since these particles are big, they are stopped by the hair lining the inside of the nasal tract and keep moving upward. However, particles 1–5 microns in size manage to reach the deeper parts of the lungs,” said Dr Pramod Niphadkar, chest physician at Jaslok Hospital.
Doctors say while the body has its own mechanism to combat even the smallest particles, in areas where construction is a continuous process, these particles are abundant and a beyond–the–limit quantity in the body may cause serious health hazards.
“The white blood cells in the alveoli can eat up these particles. But there is a limit to it. When a person stays near a construction site, the particles get accumulated in the lungs and stay there. Prolonged collection of these particles may cause chronic cold, allergies, pharynxitis, bronchitis, an increase in asthma or trigger pneumonia along with dreaded chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders (COPDs),” said Rane.
Particulate matter do not remain constant in an area. Regional director of National Environment Engineering Research Institute Rakesh Kumar says any area has different amounts of particles at different times.“It depends on the season, vehicular and construction activities. Generally, 100 micrograms in 1 cubic metre of air is the normal limit. Anything above this is bad for people in that area,” he said adding Borivli, Kalina, Santa Cruz and Colaba were the better areas.