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    Study finds that 97% of sanitation workers are exposed to air pollution

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    A recent study conducted by the Chintan environmental research and action group has found that a large majority of sanitation workers, waste-pickers, and security guards in India are exposed to air pollution while working. The study examined the impact of air pollution on respiratory illness among these occupational groups.

    According to the study, almost 97% of sanitation workers, 95% of waste-pickers, and 82% of security guards are exposed to air pollution during their work. Shockingly, over 60% of sanitation workers, 50% of waste-pickers, and 30% of security guards were unaware of personal protective equipment (PPE) kits that could help reduce their exposure to pollution.

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    The research also revealed that a high percentage of these workers had abnormal lung function. Specifically, 75% of waste-pickers, 86% of sanitation workers, and 86% of security guards had abnormal pulmonary function results. In comparison, only 45% of participants in the control group had abnormal lung function. Additionally, the study found that 17% of waste-pickers, 27% of sanitation workers, and 10% of security guards were suffering from severe lung illnesses.

    Based on these findings, the study recommends providing PPE and training on how to use it effectively to reduce exposure to pollution. It also suggests conducting training on gargling after work hours to remove dust particles from the nasal and throat cavities. The study emphasizes the importance of hand and face washing facilities near workplaces and providing heated bottles during winters to discourage open burning.

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    In terms of pollution management, the study proposes empowering sanitary inspectors to report and fine waste burning. It also recommends limiting the use of mechanized sweepers on larger roads. To minimize exposure to pollution, the study suggests changing work shifts during hazardous air quality index (AQI) levels. Furthermore, it suggests designing resting places at levels higher than vehicle tailpipes and conducting annual health check-ups.

    The study suggests several systematic shifts, including mandating composting to prevent landfill fires and implementing in-situ horticulture waste management systems. It also calls for issuing guidelines on occupational health protection by the Swachh Bharat Mission. The study proposes using drones and other imagery to identify garbage burning and executing bioremediation strategies to prevent landfill fires.

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