DHAKA, 3 April 2009 (IRIN) - Thousands of people in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, are dying prematurely because of air pollution, say health experts.
An estimated 15,000 premature deaths, as well as several million cases of pulmonary, respiratory and neurological illness are attributed to poor air quality in Dhaka, according to the Air Quality Management Project (AQMP), funded by the government and the World Bank.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says vehicular air pollution is a major cause of respiratory distress in urban Bangladesh.
“If pregnant mothers come across excessive pollution, it may cause premature death of their children,” said Soofia Khatun, a professor of paediatrics at the Institute of Maternal and Child Health.
According to the National Institute of Diseases of Chest and Hospital (NIDCH), nearly seven million people in Bangladesh suffer from asthma; more than half of them children. Cases of children suffering from bronchitis and chronic coughs have also shot up in recent years, it said.
“Children breathe more air relative to their lung size than adults. They spend more time outdoors, often during midday and afternoons when pollutant levels are generally highest,” said Khondkar Ibrahim Khaled, chief of Kochi Kanchar Mela, a children’s welfare organization.