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Filter masks, an exigent necessity with worsening air pollution


Jakarta, IO – As the dry season progresses, air pollution in the Jakarta region continues to worsen over the past few months. Complaints of bad air quality have been aired from March 2023 until now, the middle of August. During this period, IQAir, the renowned Swiss air quality information platform, has repeatedly alerted all that Jakarta’s air quality is in the “red” (unhealthy for everyone) and “orange” (unhealthy for sensitive groups) categories. 

According to a 19 December 2022 WHO release, air pollution has led to 6.7 million premature deaths every year, with 4.2 million of these, or 63%, being caused by outdoor air pollution. 89% of outdoor air pollution deaths occur in middle- and low-income countries, especially in the Asian and Western Pacific regions. 37% of these outdoor air pollution deaths were said to be the cause of ischemic heart attacks and strokes, 23% because of acute lower respiratory tract infection, 18% because of chronic obstructed lung disease, and 11% because of respiratory tract cancer. 

Quoting from the Tweet of Dr. dr. Erlina Burhan, Sp.P(K), M.Sc., the severity of pollution impact level in the lungs depend on the combination of the intensity and duration of exposure, which specific pollutants are presents, the individual health status, and previous conditions sustained by the lungs. Well then, how does pollution affect the lungs? 

dr. Bernie Endyarni Medise, Sp.A(K), MPH
dr. Bernie Endyarni Medise, Sp.A(K), MPH (IO/Esti)

“The degradation of lung functions occurs gradually. However, if the lungs cannot perform their function optimally, physical endurance and quality of life will also be degraded. This is indicated by an increase in the prevalence of respiratory tract infections such as ISPA, pneumonia and bronchitis. Children and elders are more vulnerable to these infections. And among asthma sufferers, exposure to polluted air can cause attacks to occur much more frequently and severely,” Dr. Erlina said. 

Vulnerable Groups 

The impacts of air pollution are not immediately fatal. However, constant exposure to bad quality air will trigger health problems in society, which will in turn degrade the quality of their lives and increase the economic burden of the State because of health issues. 

Children, pregnant mothers, and elders are the most vulnerable groups when exposed to fine particulate air pollutants (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide, over the long term. According to the most recent Indonesian Pediatricians Society (Ikatan Dokter Anak Indonesia–IDAI) studies, the high level of air pollution in Jakarta in recent months is accompanied by the proliferation of protracted cases of coughing and colds, unaccompanied by fever. 

“Such cases of coughing and cold without fever among children indicate allergy caused by pollutants. We at IDAI are very concerned about this problem, as no matter what, children need to engage in outdoor activities,” sighed dr. Bernie Endyarni Medise, Sp.A(K), MPH, IDAI’s Chairman III, when we met in Jakarta, Tuesday (15/8/2023). 

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To protect oneself from the impacts of pollution, dr. Bernie suggests that children wear filter masks when they playing outdoor. “They only need to use ordinary filter masks, because the pollutant particles are bigger than the viruses that cause infection, and common masks can prevent the latter into the body anyway,” she declared. “Other than wearing filter masks, children should avoid visiting regions with higher pollution levels as much as possible. Parents should also make sure that they are given balanced nutrition, have sufficient rest, obtain a full course of immunizations, and are sufficiently stimulated for the sake of their growth and development.” 

Similarly, community health practitioner dr. Ngabila Salama, MKM, also declared in the “Bad Air Quality – How to Prevent Citizens from Getting Sick Because of It?” talk show on Wednesday (16/8/2023), also declared that the wearing of filter masks, minimizing the duration and frequency of outdoor activities, and increasing the body’s immunity are actions that can be taken to avoid catching diseases triggered by air pollution. (est)


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