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Home / Health & Science

Mombasa Road: Fumes, dust a health hazard

HEALTH & SCIENCEBy ROSE MUKONYO | Mon,Sep 06 2021 04:00:00 EAT
By ROSE MUKONYO | Mon,Sep 06 2021 04:00:00 EAT


Construction along Mombasa Road. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Dust and fumes along Mombasa Road could have long-term health effects on commuters plying the route.

Dr Ngami Mutwa, a physician at Machakos Level 5 Hospital, says the dust has seen an increase in number of asthmatic patients. Dust triggers asthma symptoms.

The dust also affects those with eye allergies, especially conjunctivitis, a condition that causes eye redness, itching and increased tears.

Dr George Biketi, a General Practitioner, explains that the dust and exhaust fumes may affect physical and mental health as “the dust carries disease pathogens, including bacteria and viruses, predisposing one to upper respiratory tract diseases”.

Traffic gridlocks, like the one experienced on Thursday last week, have aggravated depression and anxiety, according to Dr Biketi.

“Arriving home late worsens work pressures,” he says.

Construction of the Nairobi Expressway has created several diversions on Mombasa Road, affecting commuters plying the Syokimau, Katani, Kitengela, Athi River and Machakos routes. 

Dr Biketi adds that anxiety triggers the body to produce catecholamines, substances released into the blood in response to physical or emotional stress and this increases heart pace. Then there is vasoconstriction, the narrowing or constriction of blood vessels that may trigger high blood pressure.

“Think of a diabetic person who has insulin at home, who injects themselves maybe at 6am and 6pm and when they are stuck in the traffic, they are likely to have these sugars either going down or up or worsen the condition,” offers Dr Biketi.

Additionally, the risk of contracting Covid-19, especially for users of public service vehicles, is high since most people adjust masks when making phone calls.

Some skin conditions may react to certain allergens and are likely to worsen with increased sweating due to the heat.

“When they scratch themselves, it breaks the natural barriers (the epidermis) of the skin and this exposes the skin to infection though a chain of mechanisms,” explains Dr Biketi.

He says long-term effects of the hydro carbonate fumes from vehicles include damaging the ozone layer which could lead to cancers like leukemia.

Dr Mutwa adds that the traffic jams on Mombasa Road also pose a danger to diabetic patients reporting for check-ups on empty stomachs, causing sugar levels to fluctuate to risky thresholds.

For hypertensive patients, traffic jams may nose their pressure up and others may experience hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) and start feeling dizzy, start sweating.

Dr Mutwa advises commuters with the above medical conditions to “always carry medication and something to eat…they may also wear tags so that in case of an attack people will know what they are suffering from and help.”

The 30 kilometres Nairobi Expressway from Mlolongo all the way to Westlands will roughly cost over Sh60 billion and is expected to be finished by early next year.   

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