‘Women hit more than men by vehicular pollution’

Copyright: Bhrikuti Rai

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  • Women traffic officers found affected more by vehicular pollution in Kathmandu
  • Kathmandu’s air quality is far worse than internationally accepted standards
  • Nepal needs new aerial pollution monitoring stations with better technology

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[KATHMANDU] Women may be more affected by vehicular pollution than men, according to a study conducted on traffic police officers of both sexes in Nepal’s capital. 
The findings of the study, published in Nepal Journals Online (NepJOL) in March, showed that the longer the hours on traffic duty, the greater the decrement in lung function. NepJOL is supported by the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications.
“Detailed work on a larger number of women traffic personnel involved in traffic duty over a prolonged period of time is required to further explain and elucidate the present findings,” says Hari Sunder Shrestha, assistant professor of the KIST Medical College, Lalitpur and lead author of the study.
Shrestha says a possible explanation is that female hormones like estrogen and progesterone may have a role in the interaction of respiratory organs with pollutants. “In our study, the possible interaction of these hormones in the presence of the pollutants in female volunteers has not been considered, so we need a more comprehensive study,” Shrestha tells SciDev.Net.

According to Shrestha, another possibility is that women are more vulnerable than men to damage from pollutants because they have smaller respiratory airways.
The study on 17 women and 89 men who were randomly selected for pulmonary function and other tests was conducted over a period of six months. The results showed traffic police personnel of both sexes faring worse than ordinary individuals in Kathmandu.
Past studies have shown Kathmandu’s ambient air quality crossing internationally accepted pollution parameters at high density road intersections two- to three-fold. Kathmandu’s bowl-shaped topography further aggravates the problem. According to Yale’s 2014 Environmental Performance Index Nepal ranked 177 out of 178 countries for air quality.

Such rankings have, however, been challenged by officials. “Most studies on air pollution in Kathmandu do not present the full picture since they only include certain areas and that too for short spans of time,” says Suraj Pokharel, director-general at the environment department.  “They also fail to meet parameters set by the government for holistic assessment of air quality.”

The technology on monitoring stations has also become obsolete. “We hope to overcome the challenge of lack of comprehensive data and knowledge of air pollutants with new stations to assess the air pollution situation and formulate policies accordingly,” says Pokharel.
>Link to study in Nepal Journals Online
 This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South Asia desk.