KARACHI: A study of allergens in the air suggests that the suburb of Gulshan-e-Maymar may be a relatively better neighbourhood for asthmatics in Karachi and Lines Area could be the worst place for them to live in.
Toqeer Ahmed Rao, Abdul Hakeem Shaikh and Moinuddin Ahmed from the Department of Botany of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology trapped and studied the spores from five locations in Karachi and published their findings in a paper ‘Airborne fungal flora of Karachi, Pakistan’ last year in the Pakistan Journal of Botany.
The areas studied were Korangi, Metroville, Gulshane- Maymar, Site and Malir Extension Colony. They found that the fungal populations were very high in the atmospheric air of Karachi. A total of ten fungal species were recorded (Alternaria solani, Aspergillus candidus, A flavus, A fumigatus, A niger, A terreus, A wentii, Curvularia clavata, Drechslera dematioidea and Penicillium notatum) with seasonal distributions. From December to April the patterns were somewhat the same but after April fluctuations were noted.
Despite the distances, traffic, pollution, population status, people’s way of life, hygienic condition, industrial or domestic waste, the A niger and A flavus species were found to be widely distributed. However, in Gulshan-e- Maymar, there was a marked absence of A flavus in contrast to the other areas. Gulshane- Maymar is a suburb located near the Super Highway. It is an open residential area with low population, less traffic emissions and no industries.
Its sanitary and garbage dumping conditions are better in contrast to the other four locations of the city. However, the location is dusty due to loose sandy soil, high wind-speed and a comparatively low number of high rise buildings. Some times the velocity of the dusty wind is very high and dust can cover all household possessions. Five different fungal species were recorded here. The distribution of the species was different in different months of the year and the A niger was the most dominant species with the highest average during October.
The researchers found that in Malir extension colony, an open but thickly populated area close to the Malir agriculture fields environmental conditions were poor. A total of five different fungal species were recorded with higher concentrations after the month of April. Two species were particularly prevalent in September and August. In the Korangi residential and industrial area, which is close to the coastal area, several industries (tanneries, oil, food, garments, textiles and pharmaceuticals) lead to pollution throughout the year.
A total of six fungal species were recorded here. The unhygienic conditions of the area may have also promoted the growth of some hazardous fungal species. Distributions of the fungal species were the same in December to April with August and October being particularly bad. In Metroville, a residential area close to the Sindh Industrial Estate, there are different types of industries, such as pharmaceutical, textile, dyeing, chemical, flour and rubber industries.
This area is open but thickly populated due to which the pollution level is also very high. A total of five different fungal species was found from this location. The months of August and May were the worst for two species. Lines Area has a large population, high traffic emissions, residential waste, an inadequate sewerage system and garbage dumps. In addition, the perilous gases and metallic particles of the exhaust from automobiles also affect the location. A total of eight fungal species were found here.
The presence of the highest number of fungal species in contrast to other four localities of the city showed that this location was highly polluted. The researchers said that in particular the airborne Alternaria solani is known to cause asthmatics problems. Followed by Karachi, Multan has the highest number of asthma cases in the country.
The scary condition, which includes shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and a cough is exacerbated, according to doctors, by the pollution in Karachi, smoking and second-hand smoke and allergic reactions to spores in the air. Humidifiers, air-conditioning systems, carpeting and damp walls are also potent sources of indoor fungal allergens.