Vivek narayanan & Serena Josephine M.

For traffic constable S. Kadiresan (name changed), dust and smoke are a part of workaday life. Exposure to these things and the intense stress that goes with regulating vehicle movement leave him a tired and unhappy man at the end of the day.

Kadiresan is not alone. There are around 2,500 other traffic policemen in the city who share his plight. Over time, the develop respiratory problems. “There are health camps for us. However, all of us do not get time to go and get checked,” said Kadiresan.

Traffic intersections such as Moolakadai, Basin Bridge, Royapuram, Koyambedu, Kilpauk, T. Nagar and Porur are among the junctions in the city where dust levels are on the higher side. “The main problem we face is related to breathing. Given the pollution levels, even the masks provided to us are insufficient,”said a traffic police constable. Many policemen do not wear masks.

Among reasons cited for this are sweating and difficulty in speaking to road-users. At some junctions, there is no place to sit, they said.

“After standing for long hours, we need to stretch our legs. Unlike major intersections, we rely on tea shops situated a few meters away at smaller junctions,” said a policeman.

Bad road condition and constant flow of vehicles makes the Moolakadai junction a nightmare both for road users and traffic managers.

“A heavy blanket of dust covers the road reducing visibility on the stretch. Vehicles kick up dust and this gets worse at night. We cannot see whether the vehicle coming in front is a lorry or a car,” another policeman said

R. Narasimhan, senior respiratory physician, Apollo Hospitals said traffic policemen are prone to respiratory and nasal allergies. “Some are at the risk for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) due to exposure to alarming amounts of dust. This is because of the atmospheric pollution caused by motor bikes, cars and heavy vehicles,” he explained.

Seasonal changes can also affect them as they spend most part of the day outside. “The chances of getting COPD increases for those who smoke. They should undergo periodic health check-ups, particularly pulmonary function test. If a particular area has high levels of pollution, then the department could post personnel on a rotation basis to avoid increased exposure to dust. Wearing masks is one of the ways to protect themselves from dust,” he said.