Air quality dip triggers respiratory infections

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Doctors have reported an increase respiratory infections in the city over the past month and it is being attributed to a decrease in air quality- level of suspended particulate matter (SPM) overshot much beyond the permissible limits on most days of December - coupled with sudden temperature variations.

Air in the city is monitored every hour at two stations at Shivajinagar and Pashan under the System for Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) Project. Data reveals that particulate matter smaller 10 microgram per metre cube (SPM-10 which are respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) that can enter the lungs) crossed the permissible limit of 100 in December. It was as high as 160. Of this the share of SPM less than 2.5 microgram per metre cube was also high, touching 90, much beyond the permissible limit of 60.

Dr Gufran Beig, project director of SAFAR that has set up the two air-quality monitoring stations that study SPM variations on an hourly basis told Newsline that in most days of December, level of particulate matter was above permissible limits and had reached a peak of 160.

Variation in temperature leads to a fluctuation in SPM levels, experts said. For instance, when temperature is 8°Celsius, the concentration of suspended pollutants tends to be at a lower height. Once temperature rises, it shifts upwards, and pollutants disperse.

It was for this reason that in 30 days, SPM level came down to within permissible limit on New Year's day, with maximum temperature increasing to 19°C.

Temperature variations can lead to respiratory infections, Dr Shirish Prayag, former director of the Indian Society of Critical Care Medicine, said.

"The body cannot adjust immediately to extreme cold and hot conditions and hence gets symptoms of cold, cough and throat infection. There has been a sudden rise in number of patients who have viral infection," Prayag said.

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