Home­less get cloth masks, docs fume

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - HTMETRO - Joy­deep Thakur and Anonna Dutt htre­porters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

BIPLOV BHUYAN/HT

Health ex­perts said the cloth masks dis­trib­uted to the home­less peo­ple would not help pro­tect against pol­lu­tion.

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