By Leilani S. Junio

MANILA, Feb. 20 (PNA) — A group of heart specialists on Monday called on the Department of Health (DOH) to distribute masks to help reduce the public’s exposure to the worsening air pollution in major cities.

“I-lobby natin sa gobyerno na mag-provide sila ng masks, gaya ng condoms (Let us lobby the government to provide masks, just like condoms),” said Dr. Jorge Sison, chairman of the cardiology department of ManilaMed (Medical Center Manila).

Sison expressed hope that the DOH would subsidize the costs of the masks, saying this is the best solution at the moment.

“The immediate solution is to wear masks in areas where pollution is visibly high, such as areas with high vehicular emissions. We see a lot of people nowadays who wear masks. However, the long-term solution is to enforce the clean air act,” he said.

Sison emphasized the importance of wearing masks as the level of air pollution in Metro Manila continues to pose risks to public health. He explained that air pollutants make people prone to heart ailments, especially traffic enforcers, commuters and vendors.

“At ManilaMed, we see a lot of cardiovascular patients. Every day, in and out, we see people with stroke or high blood pressure. Most of them come from the cities,” he said, explaining that toxins in the air may be contributing to the tightening of blood vessels and abnormal blood viscosity.

When this happens, he said, blood pressure rises, causing hypertension, which is the number one cause of heart attacks and strokes.

“Before, we thought it (air pollution) only affected the pulmonary system. However, there are indirect processes that could eventually lead to cardiovascular or heart and blood vessel diseases. For example, inhaling large amounts of carbon monoxide and sulfur could make blood vessels abnormal,” he said.

Sison and fellow cardiologists thus called on the public to wear masks to protect themselves from the toxins produced by smoke belched by vehicles and factories.

Aside from air pollution, lifestyle and stress also contribute to heart ailments, Sison said, advising people to have regular heart check-ups. (PNA)

This news originally appeared here.