Traffic related fine particulate emissions, enriched in metal contents, are directly linked to respiratory disorders in human subjects. In view of the growing traffic related emissions in India, the present study was undertaken to estimate the heavy metal exposure among non-occupationally exposed two vehicle riders of Lucknow City and related health effects via application of face masks (FMs) fitted with cellulose nitrate filters and measuring the peak respiratory flow rate (PEFR). Carefully selected 200 volunteers (asymptomatic n=154 and symptomatic n=46) were advised to use FMs during their deriving time for 30 days and PEFR test was conducted on each subject at the beginning, i.e. 0 day, and at end of the study period, i.e. 30 days. On completion of the prescribed study period, filters from the used FMs were collected, acid leached and analyzed for Fe, Mn, Cu, Zn, Pb, Ni, Cr and Cd. Asymptomatic and symptomatic subject groups were further divided into two age groups of 15-40 years and 41-68. Pb, Cu and Cd were significantly higher in lower age group (15-40) of symptomatic group and Cr was in asymptomatic group. Negative associations were observed between metals viz. Pb (r=-0.39, p<0.001), Cd (r=-0.26, p<0.001), Fe (r=-0.37, p<0.001), Mn (r=-0.15, p<0.05) and the lung functioning. 30 days PEFR of all subjects were higher by nearly 10% than 0 day in all 200 samples irrespective of age and symptomatic nature of the subject. The improvement could also be due to metals and other organic species, not analyzed herein. Nevertheless the results indicate that FM usage has a role to play for immediate, if not ultimate, improvement in public health and need further studies.
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