“Two-wheelers, in general, emit PM2.5, black carbon, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds. Two-wheelers with older, two-stroke engines can be an important source of air pollution,” explains Pant. Motorcycles also emit other harmful gases including carbon monoxide (CO) and convert atmospheric oxygen into toxic ozone (O3).
Siva Praveen Puppala, an aerosol scientist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) says motorcyclists alone cannot be blamed if other forms of public transport are not reliable. He says, “Unless we come up with cleaner alternatives for them, like an efficient mass transit, we are also at fault.”
These poisonous gases and suspended particulates together have increased the prevalence of respiratory ailments among Nepalis. A study published in the medical journal BMJ this week revealed that in 2019 Nepal recorded the highest age-adjusted death rate due to chronic lung diseases in the world at 182.5 per 100,000 population.
Over 3,000 years were lost to ill health or disability from the condition, with nearly all cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) being environmental in origin, according to lead author Jay Kaufman of the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at McGill University in Montréal.
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