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Tailpipe emissions suffocate Bengaluru

Arlene Mathew

Doctors say smoke from exhaust pipes can cause chronic bronchitis, cough and difficulty in breathing. Carbon Monoxide in the smoke prevents oxygen from reaching body-tissues

It’s a familiar sight in Bengaluru: Vehicles emitting black smoke speeding by as police look the other way. The smoke, caused by unburned fuel, contains hydrocarbons in the form of diesel particulate matter (DPM).

According to studies conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, Maryland, US, DPM is a mixture of solid and liquid particles suspended in air that contribute to pollution. The problem is common in diesel vehicles. A minor repair could, in most cases, resolve the issue.

“Petroleum smoke can lead to cancer. It also leads to chronic bronchitis, cough and breathing difficulty,” Dr Priya Ramachandran, consultant pulmonologist at St John’s Hospital, informed The Observer.

“When the sky is clear and the temperature high, these exhaust gases clear up quickly. But when it is cloudy, most of the exhaust stays, and we end up inhaling it. Most respiratory diseases are caused by industrial and vehicular smoke.”
Black smoke is emitted mostly by vehicles driven fast.

“Many BMTC buses emit dark smoke,” says Aswin M., a digital marketing agent. The smoke stays in the air for long after the vehicles have passed. People who cover their faces still end up inhaling the noxious fumes.

Asked if police have taken any measures to regulate vehicles emitting black smoke, Kengeri traffic sub- inspector PN Manjunath, replied in the positive. “Of course, we take it very seriously. We levy a fine of Rs 100 if we find any vehicle being driven around in that condition. All vehicles must possess the emission test certificate; else they are fined Rs 2,000.”

Vehicles emit black smoke because their owners fail to service them on time, the officer added.

While black smoke poses a big hazard, invisible fumes also pollute the environment and increase the risk of illnesses. Carbon monoxide, one of the invisible gases emitted by vehicles, combines with hemoglobin to produce carboxyhemoglobin, which is ineffective for delivering oxygen to bodily tissues. In 2011, 52% of carbon monoxide emissions were created by mobile vehicles in the US, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Other harmful gases emitted by vehicles are mono-nitrogen oxides, cardon dioxide and ozone (which irritates the respiratory system when present at the ground level).
Experts say it is high time we hastened the move to eco-friendly electric vehicles.