CHENNAI: Ahead of Bhogi on Wednesday experts urged the public to not burn objects, particularly those made of rubber, plastic or nylon, as exposure to high pollution will increase the risk of contracting Covid.
During Bhogi, people discard old things and light them on fire to start afresh on Pongal, the first day of harvest. However, every year, the pollution spikes severely as people burn old tyres and plastic, making the air hazardous.
Professor K Shanti, Head of Chemistry department at Anna University, said that most objects burned on Bhogi produce Carbon-monoxide, Carbon-dioxide and ash particles. She added, “Particularly products like tyre, plastic and nylon clothes produce toxic gases like Sulphur-dioxide, Nitrogen-dioxide and chloride gases among many others.” These pollutants affect the lung-health making many more susceptible to Covid. Dr Spoorthi Arun, an American Board-certified Internal Medicine Physician, Promed Hospital, Chennai, explained how pollution increases the chance of contracting respiratory infections.
“The lungs are lined with tiny hair-like structures called cilia which traps and gets rid of dust and viral particles. When there’s high pollution or when one inhales smoke, it destroys or overburdens the cilia. This allows the virus to enter the lungs,” she said. She added that it has already been academically established that pollution is linked with higher risk of contracting many other respiratory conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia.
“Pollution is likely to affect the lung health and immunity of senior citizens, pregnant women, children and those with co-morbidities more,” she said. Dr VV Varadarajan, senior consultant and paediatric pulmonology specialist at Rainbow Children’s Hospital, Chennai added, while Covid seems to show very low mortality among children, pollution can make them a little more susceptible to the virus. “In the weeks following Deepavali and Bhogi, children often show up with a lot of allergies, sinusitis, bronchiolitis and other respiratory infections,” he said.
While the government has laid no severe restriction on burning objects on Bhogi morning, AV Venkatachalam, chairman of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), said that officials from the Chennai Corporation, police and the board will patrol the city and prevent people from burning tyres and plastics. He added that vans with awareness slogans were also sent around Chennai on Tuesday.