Asthma alert in Bahrain as pollution rises
Manama, February 8, 2009
More than 10 per cent of Bahrain's population suffers from asthma and the number is set to rise as air pollution increases, says a physician.
Bahrain is ranked the sixth highest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2) per capita in the world and such pollutants can aggravate existing respiratory conditions such as asthma, Dr Saeed Alsaffar told our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News.
The Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) primary health chest consultant physician said asthma was the result of genetic and environmental factors and so when pollution was high, those genetically predisposed to asthma suffered.
'We don't have statistics in Bahrain, but a study done in Saudi Arabia two years ago estimated that 10 to 11 per cent of the population had asthma and we believe the number is about the same in Bahrain, the percentage is also the same as the UK,' said Dr Alsaffar.
'Globally, asthma is increasing.
'In New Zealand, for example, it was 10 per cent of the population and now it is 20. In the West it is increasing with more modernisation and the use of more cars.
'It affects any age and if they are below 12, it affects more males than females and in adults affects more females than males.'
Dr Alsaffar said asthmatics were affected by city pollution from carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide caused by exhaust fumes and factory smoke.
He said Bahrain's most polluted spots were the traffic-laden zones of Manama and industrial areas such as Alba.
'In Bahrain we have high pollution, especially from power plants in Alba. It's very obvious and on a clear day you can see yellow smoke in the area as it goes over Sitra and Riffa depending on wind direction,' he said.
Dr Alsaffar said indoor air pollution from house dust, air-conditioning and cooking fumes also aggravated symptoms of asthma.
'Methane gas used in cooking is irritating and affects the lungs,' he noted.
'The smoke that comes from frying food makes lungs more susceptible to asthma attacks and pollen from indoor plants affects allergies.
'In this part of the world air-conditioners can also aggravate the lungs if not cleaned properly or the filter is not changed and bacteria and fungus is allowed to breed and dust is circulated.'
Dr Alsaffar said asthmatics were mainly admitted to hospital at the end of winter when air-conditioners were switched on, during the summer months and at the beginning of winter because of respiratory infections.
He said every year between three to nine people died as a result of asthma attacks.
'This is usually because the asthma is severe and they have delayed coming to the hospital and may have other diseases like diabetes or hypertension,' said Dr Alsaffar.
'Some people have uncontrolled asthma, where they don't comply with the treatment so they end up in the emergency department.'
To avoid admission to hospital, Dr Alsaffar urged all asthmatics to take their medication as directed and if possible avoid atmospheres that provoke their symptoms.
'Outside they should avoid pollution traps such as traffic jams and grassy areas where there is pollen,' he said.
In the house asthmatics are advised to avoid fabrics and carpets and instead have titled floors and plastic furniture and curtains.
'So many asthmatics are not aware that they should put a plastic covering over their pillows and mattress, before putting the pillow case and sheet to avoid dust mites.'-TradeArabia News Service