Constables can’t seem to catch a break

Six months ago, 52-year-old constable Md Iqbal started working in the traffic department of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP).

In this short period, he has already developed knee pain, back pain, and hearing problems. His muscle pain is so severe that he hasn’t been able to get a good night’s sleep.

Talking to this correspondent at the Farkirerpool intersection, Iqbal said he doesn’t get an opportunity to sit for a single moment during his eight-hour-long duty.

“I’ve developed this constant ringing sound in my ears. I can’t watch TV or hear what people are saying unless they speak to me loudly,” he complained.

In mid-September, Iqbal visited the Central Police Hospital, where doctors prescribed him a month’s medicine, including calcium for his knee and back pain.

Traffic constable Khalilur Rahman, stationed at Chankharpool intersection, said he has been suffering from breathing problems for a long time.

“It’s difficult for me to keep my face mask on for long periods, but I don’t have an option to remove it, as the area is very dusty. Recently, I’ve started to develop chest pain as well,” said Khalilur, who has been working at the traffic department of DMP since 2017.

Iqbal and Khalilur are not the only traffic police to be suffering from chronic illnesses.

According to a recent study, 84 percent of Dhaka traffic police officers are suffering from respiratory diseases, while 64 percent have lost their hearing ability. Most of these illnesses are caused or aggravated by air and noise pollution.

The study, conducted on 364 traffic police officers, was published in the Indian Journal of Medical Science and Clinical Research.

Meanwhile, another study on air pollution found that over 40 percent of traffic police suffer from some form of sleep problem. Over 56 percent said they heard a constant ringing sound, even during sleep.

Around 28 percent of them suffered from mental health issues, stated the research.

Shakila Yeasmin, a physician of IEDCR who conducted the research, said it was conducted from October to December 2018.

Dr. Md Emdadul Hoque, superintendent of police (SP) of Central Police Hospital, told that traffic police who come for treatment suffer from asthma, bronchitis, allergy, low hemoglobin, hearing loss, severe headaches, abdominal pain, inflammation of the eyes, liver damage, joint pain, and heart problems.

“We provide them with available medicines from the outdoor for free. We try our best to provide the best treatment from the hospital,” he said.

Various studies have shown that the air in Dhaka contains lead, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, ozone gas, carbon monoxide, and other harmful chemicals and various types of particles.

Dr. Rezaul Haque, assistant professor of the National Institute of Chest Disease and Hospital (NIDCH), told that in research they found that the air quality of Dhaka is worse than any other city in the country.

“If any person works in this environment for a long period of time, it is only natural for them to develop asthma, bronchitis, and severe lungs infections,” he said.

Asked about remedy, Dr. Haque suggested using masks round the clock.

He also said traffic police should consult with doctors immediately if they develop any symptoms, adding they should get check-ups every six months.

Shaifqul Islam, the commissioner of DMP, said traffic police do suffer from different diseases as a result of their exposure to noise and air pollution. However, this is part of their regular work, he said.

“We are now briefing police officials to take precautionary measures, like wearing masks, putting some cotton in their ears, etc,” added the DMP chief.

“Some people honk and some spread carbon dioxide without any reason. We are also trying to reduce these problems. Besides, we are in discussions with the city corporations so that they spray water regularly on the street to reduce dust,” he said.