There is a report that of air pollutants in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore was 6.4 times higher than the WHO guidelines

By Dr. S. M. ALAM
Aug 23 - 29, 2004





Humans on the earth are making unprecedented changes in global environment. Use of fossil fuels leading to accumulation of greenhouse gasses, particularly carbon dioxide and methane, has great implications on the world climate. Global warming has been recorded since 1850s and is greater at the poles than the equator. Major increases in the frequency of the heat waves with climate change can occur.

Air pollutants have a greater impact during the hot weather. Water scarcity aggravated by water stress due to hot climate seen in Africa and Middle East which causes use of contaminated water and thus water related diseases. Air pollution is the contamination of the atmosphere by gaseous, liquid, or solid wastes or by-product that can endanger human or plant health or can attack material. It also reduce visibility, or produce undesirable odors. The major air pollutants are vehicles plying on the cities road. Motor vehicles have their most deleterious effect on the environment since they are responsible for about 60 per cent of their pollution. It is one of our most serious environmental problems.

Atmospheric air is a mixture of gases and is normally colorless. Odorless and tasteless. Its major constituent gases are nitrogen (78%), and oxygen (21%), with the remaining 1% comprises of Ar, CO2, Ne, He, CH4, Kr, H2, CO, Xe, O3, oxides of S and N and water vapors and particulate matters. Haphazard and indiscriminate release of toxic chemicals in the atmosphere are from industrial and commercial operations, power generation, transportation, automobile exhaust, burning of industrial and municipal wastes, forest, fire, sea sprays, dust, etc. whereas storms have seriously affected the quality of atmospheric air throughout the world. In Pakistan, the industrialized areas of Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Peshawar, Multan, Hyderabad making the spread. Under these circumstances in the severely-affected areas the vegetation have been totally wiped out from the growing areas. There is a report that air pollutants in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore was 6.4 times higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and 3.8 times higher than Japanese standards in recent years.

In addition to industrial pollution, Karachi's atmosphere is affected by motor vehicles plying on the roads. Karachi had a total of 1,177,315 vehicles by the end of 2003. These included 440,063 motorcycles, 534,531 cars and jeeps, 33,003 rickshaws, 39,967 taxis, 18,390 buses and minibuses, 19,431 trucks, 88,500 delivery vans and pick-ups and 34,30 tractors. An average of seven vehicles come on per hour. Ten years ago in 1993, the total of vehicles were 832,885. Within ten years the number of vehicles will jump up to 1,900,000. According to various surveys and assessments 3000 to 4000 persons enter the city every day. The said number of vehicles and entry of persons from other provinces are causing colossal damage to environment and proving to be a serious health hazards. According to a report, the pollution caused by industrial emissions and automobile exhaust can cause asthma. In large cities that have air pollution problems, the number of emergency departments suffering from asthma attacks escalates when air quality is very poor. Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced when fuels such as gasoline are burned. Because it is colourless, tasteless, odourless and non irritating, it can affect the exposed person without any warning. It produces weakness and confusion, depriving the person of the ability to seek safety.



There are also some indications that noise pollution can increase susceptibility to viral infections and toxic substances. Loud sounds can cause an arousal response in which a series of reactions occur in the body. Adrenalin is released into the blood stream, heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increase, gastro-intestinal motility is inhibited, peripheral blood vessels contract and muscles become tense. In these studies, noise has been related to diseases like headache, fatigue, insomnia irritability, neuroticism. Tension, hypertension, hypotension, cardiac disease, ulcers and colitis.

Combustion of firewood, garbages, coals and fossil fuels generated in the cities result in the serious ejection of oxides of carbon, sulphur and nitrogen, small particulates and organic compounds which affect the overall peaceful environment. All the times of the agricultural practices such as pesticides and herbicides sprays also cause air pollution. Operation of automobiles on the road releases significant quantities of oxides of C, S, N, CH4, Pb. Cd, traces of heavy metals, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Aerosol spray, freon gases, hydrocarbons and toxic aromatic compounds whereas incineration of municipal wastes release acid fumes, particulate matter and reactive and odorous compounds. The toxic substances in the environment constitute a serious threat to human health as these substances can enter the human body through air, water and food in varying amounts in each day throughout a lifetime. Inhalation of air, which is polluted with biological and toxic substances, may produce various disorders such as respiratory and pulmonary diseases, skin and eye diseases, allergy and infertility.

Air pollution also causes the appearance and incidence of chromic bronchitis, optic irritation and lung carcinoma among urban population. The release of carbon monoxide (CO) in the atmosphere affects the central nervous system even at low concentration. Both SO2 and NO2 when inhaled irritate the respiratory system. The SO2 which causes formation of acidic condition in the atmosphere causes damages to crops and forest, erosion of buildings and structures. The main air pollutants released from industrial operations include particulates, sulphur oxides, hydrocarbons, oxides of carbon and nitrogen.

It is estimated that annually several million ton of these pollutants are emitted by photochemical plants, smelting processes, iron and steel mills, pulp and paper mills, coal cleaning and coke production, cement plants, glass manufacturing etc. petrochemical and paper mills release are highly toxic elements in the atmosphere. Several industrial operations such as metallurgy, electroplating, manufacturing processes, mining, milling and commercial operations release traces of heavy metals into the environment from where, these metals can enter human body through air, water and food chain. These metals (Hg, Cd, Pb, Ni, Cr, Co, Se, Sb, As, Sn, Br, Bi, Ti, etc.) accumulate in various organs such as live, heart, lung and brain and cause various disorders in the body. These metals cause hepatitis, colitis, tachycardia, anemia, insomnia, dizziness, hallucination, ostomalicia, etc. These metals being biologically, non-degradable, and accumulate in the vital organs of human being such as brain, nervous system, kidney, liver, intestinal tract and lungs and adversely affect the biochemical processes.

Prolonged exposure to low levels of Hg produces symptoms of nervous disorder and myocardial necrosis and higher dose may damage liver and brain tissues. Cadmium (Cd) induces lipid deposition in arteries of heart and kidneys and produces athero-sclerosis and hypertension. Excess intake of arsenic (As) causes myocardial necrosis whereas higher amount of Br damages heart tissues. Higher amount of Selenium (Se) creates problem such as depression, dermatitis, gas bio-intestinal disorder. Three elements namely Hg, Cd and Pb are highly toxic and constitute a serious hazard to man and other living organisms.


Atmospheric air pollution may cause increased illness, contamination of surface water, impaired growth of agricultural crops, deterioration of materials and loss of amenity. Therefore, it is necessary to maintain a reasonably good air quality to protect human health and environment from adverse effects of pollutants. This can be achieved by controlling the emission of pollutants at source, for emissions and regular monitoring of pollution levels in air for which expertise should be enhanced through training programmes and organization of seminars and symposia. Science provides many practical solutions to minimize the present levels at which pollutants are introduced into the environment and for creating up environmental problems. All of these solutions come with some cost (both societal and monetary). In our everyday lives, a great deal can be done to minimize pollution, if we take care to recycle materials whose production create pollution, and if we act responsibly with household chemicals and their disposal. Additionally, there are choices, we make each day and that also affect the quantity of pollutants our actions will introduce into the environment. From the religious point of view, Islam teaches us to use available resources effectively and efficiently and to keep surrounding neat and clean. Because, purity is half Imaan (Faith) for a human being as it is quoted by Our Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). There are many choices on the personal and societal levels that we must make consciously to avoid affecting the environment badly. Our standard of living and very way of life is based upon practices, which are inherently dirtier than those of our distant ancestors, although they too polluted their environment to some extent. Now, it is our duty to propagate extensively through media, newspapers, articles, magazines and mobile exhibition of films both in urban and rural areas to make awareness to the common people about the dangerous effect of pollution. In this way, people will realize themselves to take a safety measure in their surroundings for the environmental pollution. A clean and safe environment is essential to our survival. Trees and plants play a very important role in cleaning the air and beautifying the physical environment.