Homeless get cloth masks, docs fume
NEW DELHI: With air quality worsening by the day, the Delhi government has begun distributing cloth masks to homeless people residing in the shelters run by the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), to help protect them against pollution.
However, doctors and health experts, on seeing pictures of the masks distributed, said such cloth masks will be of little help protecting people from pollution, and might even be more harmful for people with cardiac ailments.
While at least 500 masks were distributed in two night shelters, at Yamuna Pushta and Sarai Kale Khan, Saturday, plans are afoot to distribute at least 10,000 masks Monday onwards.
“Our first target will be patients, particularly those suffering from respiratory and lungrelated diseases, residing in our recovery shelters. Next in line will be the elderly, women and children,” Bipin Rai, board member (expert), DUSIB, said.
The Delhi government’s health department, which helped procure the masks, said these were cloth masks that were being distributed.
“The DUSIB had told us they will conduct drives to provide masks to homeless people, and asked us to procure the same. We just have the simple masks at the hospital — not the N95 respirators or such — which is what we arranged for the people. We procured around 15,000 of them,” a senior official from Delhi government’s health department said.
Health experts said homeless people are more vulnerable to pollution-related health risks not just because they often reside in unhygienic conditions, but are also more exposed to foul air because they live in the open.
“This is a foolish and condemnable move. These cloth masks reduce the amount of oxygen required by the lungs for a proper gaseous exchange, which in turn could trigger arrests in patients with cardiac ailments,” TK Joshi, a health expert in the Central Pollution Control Board’s task force, said.
“These cloth masks are of no use against pollution. Any particle of PM10 and above can be filtered very well by our nasal passage. These masks cannot protect against PM2.5 and PM1, so why use it?” Dr Raj Kumar, Director, Vallabh Bhai Patel Chest Institute, said.
Health experts said the cloth masks distributed to the homeless people would not help protect against pollution.