Air pollution costs Tk 124  billion (60 Tk = 1 US dollar) a year in capital

Air pollution entails a massive cost amounting to Tk 124 billion a year in the capital alone in terms of lost human health and life, an economic evaluation of the pollution shows. The figure comes to 3-4 per cent of the country's national GDP. After evaluating economic impacts, a study found over Tk 83 billion comes as the total cost of excess death, Tk 20 billion as cost of chronic bronchitis and Tk 5 billion as cost of restrictive activity days.

The study also found Tk 153 million as cost of respiratory hospital diseases, Tk 114 million as emergency room visits, Tk 4 billion cost of asthma attacks and Tk 11 billion as cost of respiratory symptoms diseases. AK Azad and S Jahan of Environmental Science Discipline of Khulna University and J Sultana of Khulna University of Engineering & Technology conducted the study, presented at the just-concluded International Conference on Chemical Engineering 2003 at BUET in Dhaka.

Air pollution is causing a serious threat to public health in most of the urban centres in the developing countries, according to experts. Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is regarded as one of the most polluted cities in the world. There have, however, been significant improvements with the phasing out of black smoke-emitting two-stroke three-wheelers. "Three pollutants - suspended particulate matter (SPM), Sulphur dioxide and air-borne lead-pose a significant air pollution problem, having major public health impacts," says the study.

Among the pollutants, SPM, whose levels are 5-6 times higher than Bangladesh Standard in the heavily polluted districts in Dhaka, is the most harmful one. In the study, health impact of SPM in Dhaka City for 2002 was evaluated. Risk assessment of PM10 (particulate matter) has been performed and evaluation of economic loss due to adverse health effects has also been made. "Results from this analysis showed that the number of excess deaths per annum owing to PM10 pollution in Dhaka is 10,350." For PM10 pollution, this study predicts about 74,000 cases of chronic bronchitis, about 70 million cases of restricted activity days, about 14,000 cases of respiratory hospital diseases, over 286,000 emergency room visits, about 2.8 million cases of asthma attacks and over 220 million respiratory symptom days.

Among the pollutants, particulate composed of fully dispersed liquids and solids, including soot, dust and organic and inorganic substances are the most harmful. It is emitted in the atmosphere from various activity sources, such as transportation, fuel combustion, industrial process and solid waste disposal. Quoting other studies and research works, the study found a strong evidence of the relationship between particulate matters less than PM10 and premature death as well as disease.

In Mexico City, such economic damages due to air pollution are estimated at $1.5 billion per year. In Jakarta, 14,000 deaths, about 2 per cent of annual deaths, in the cities could be avoided every year if particulate could be kept at the level recommended by the WHO. The researchers asserted that the health effects of air pollution are massive. It causes huge economic losses in terms of loss of current workforce, treatment cost, employment loss and so on. (New Age, January 1, 2004)

Air pollution also reduces food production and timber harvests, because high levels of pollution impair photosynthesis. In Germany, for example, about US$4.7 billion a year in agricultural production is lost to high levels of sulphur, nitrogen oxides, and ozone.

The World Health Organisation estimates that about 700,000 deaths annually could be prevented in developing countries if three major atmospheric pollutants - carbon monoxide, suspended particulate matter, and lead - were brought down to safer levels. The direct health cost of urban air pollution in developing countries was estimated in 1995 at nearly US$100 billion a year. Chronic bronchitis along accounted for around US$40 billion).

AIR POLLUTION KILLS 15,000 Bangladeshis each year, according to a World Bank report released recently. The report says the country could save between 200 million and 800 million US dollars a year - about 0.7 to 3.0 per cent of its gross national product - if air pollution in its four major cities was reduced.
The report adds that 6.5 million people in these cities suffer each year. And the major disease is not diarrhoea, as is the popular perception, but acute respiratory infections caused mainly by polluted air. Automobile and industrial emissions, bad civic practices and poor government services are some of the major factors causing air pollution.

Polluted Dhaka Air

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