Lahore chokes on smog

Visibility has plunged to less than 20 metres and citizens are wearing face masks to help with breathing

Web Desk/AFP

Thousands of citizens of Lahore are complaining of breathing difficulties and irritable eyes as a blanket of thick smog was forecast to persist for several days.

Readings of dangerous "fine particulate matter" were more than four times the World Health Organization's recommended level, exceeding 104 micograms per cubic metre of in the worst-hit parts of the city of around 10 million.

Visibility plunged to less than 20 metres and citizens wore face masks to help with breathing.

Nasimur Rehman, a senior official in the Environment Protection Agency blamed the pollution on less-than-average rainfall over the Punjab region, traffic standing still through various points of the city, and tyre-burning factories located to the city's north.

Kashif Hussain, a 34-year-old cattle market worker, told AFP: "The smog has been going on since yesterday and I had to take the day off work today because my eyes have gone red.

"It's been very severe and I was prescribed drops by my doctor," he said.

"Toxic smog blanketing Lahore, air quality deplorable," tweeted resident Sabrina Toppa.

So-called fine particulate matters are particles 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller produced by combustion, and some industrial processes. They are linked to eye-irritation, coughing, asthma and even heart attacks as well as premature death.

United Nations last week reported some 300 million children live with outdoor air so polluted it can cause serious physical damage, with the situation most acute in South Asia.

"Pollutants don't only harm children's developing lungs. They can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains and, thus, their futures," said Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF.

Number of patients increasing

Executive Director of the Children’s Hospital in Lahore, Ahsan Waheed Rathore said the number of patients being admitted is rising.

According to Rathore, 600-700 children have come to the OPD complaining of smog related ailments.  Out of 1,000 children admitted to emergency, 600 have complained of difficulty breathing and cold.

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17 killed in smog related accidents

At least 17 people have died in different smog-related incidents in Punjab. On Thursday 15 people were killed in traffic accidents, while on Friday, at least two people were killed and five injured when two trucks collided near Harrappa, Sahiwal. 

The motorway - leading from Lahore to Pindi Bhattian and from Pindi Bhattian to Faisalabad - has also been reopened after a brief closure as the visibility came down to zero on Thursday night. Authorities have advised the masses to travel at low speed and use fog lamps to avoid accidents.

Motorway authorities have advised people to travel and groups and maintain distance between cars.