Winter chills: People continue to add ‘Black Carbon’ content despite MeT warning

Srinagar: With Srinagar Meteorological Department (MeT) warning that the contents of Black Carbons are already high in the air—largely emitted by burning fossil fuel like leaves and wood—the warning seems to have failed to shake commoners so far.

The common practice like that of gathering scattered twigs and leaves to make bonfire during winters seems not to be ending. People making coals out of it, stocking them to beat winter chills is going unabated.

The experts are warning that the smoke emitting from the combustion of leaves and wood is adding to that already existing toxic percentage of Black Carbons in the air, which as per the data provided by the MeT has crossed the toxic level and has again gone up by 60 µg/ m3 in November this year.

Now the Environmentalists are saying that the smoke emanating for number of simultaneous bonfire can cause significant health problems in the populations.

“Leaf smoke can irritate eyes, nose, and throat of healthy adults. It can be much more harmful to small children, elderly ones, and people suffering from asthma or other respiratory diseases,” experts said.

This is because the visible smoke from leaf fires is made up of tiny particles that can reach deep into lung tissue and cause symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest pain and shortness of breath – symptoms that might not occur until several days after exposure to large amounts of leaf smoke, experts added.

Besides being an irritant, the smoke contains many hazardous chemicals, including carbon monoxide and Benzo(a)pyrene.  “Carbon monoxide binds with haemoglobin in the bloodstream and thus reduces the amount of oxygenated blood that is reaching the lungs.”

Scientifically, Benzo(a)pyrene is a known cause cancer in animals and is believed to be a major factor in lung cancer caused by cigarette smoke and coal tar as well as leaf smoke.

“Common people are unaware about the ill effects of burning the leaves and branches of trees; there is need to aware people about the hazards of burning leaves,” Shabir Ahmed, a Biology student from University of Kashmir said

He added that simultaneously burning large number of leaves could heavily damage the environment, and is equally harmful for the human survival, “that too in winters, when there are greater chances that the emanated particles will remain suspended in the atmosphere, given the already prolonged dry spells that Kashmir is witnessing,” he said.

Health experts are also of the opinion that people, mostly elders and children in this season complain about respiratory problems, and the main reason for this is the smoke.

Dr Tariq Rasool, a Scientist from Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Sciences and Technology (SKAUST) advised that people should not burn leaves in this season in particular.

 “It is polluting the environment. The act is also against Supreme Court guidelines,” he said, adding “people should rather decompose leaves and twigs, so that after a due process fertilizers are made out of it.”


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