Philippine Taxi Drivers At Higher Risk of TB

Jeepney drivers are number one victims of tuberculosis because of their diesel-powered vechiles.

Published: 29-Jan-2003

lass=text>Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza disclosed a World Bank study that showed that passenger jeepney drivers, whose diesel-fired vehicles are considered the number one polluters on the road, are themselves the number one victims of tuberculosis (TB).

Mendoza said the World Bank report entitled “Philippines Environment Monitor 2002” discovered that jeepney drivers are prone to pulmonary diseases.

“Being the most exposed to vehicular emissions or air pollution, jeepney drivers have the highest prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases at 32.5 percent of the total number of TB victims,” Mendoza said.

The findings of the study, conducted by the University of the Philippines College of Public Health, were reported by the World Bank.

Mendoza said even bus drivers of air-conditioned buses registered as the number two victims of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease sharing 16.4 percent of the total. Commuters came in third at 14.8 percent.

Victims of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease manifest chronic cough, phlegm, wheezing cough sounds and shortness of breath.

Among those with TB, which is the worst stage of obstructive pulmonary disease, jeepney drivers still constitute the largest number at 17.5 percent compared with nine percent for commuters, Mendoza added.

At least 22 million Filipinos suffer from or are exposed to various stages of TB. This means that about one out of four Filipinos is exposed to the disease.

“Every year, 270,000 Filipinos, or about 740 people a day, contract the disease. About 68 Filipinos die daily of TB,” Mendoza further said.

Mendoza said the findings were based on survey samples of jeepney drivers who worked for an average of 14.5 years, air-conditioned-bus drivers on the job for 10 years and commuters exposed to the fumes for 8.6 years.

Meanwhile, transportation department spokesman Thompson Lantion disclosed that the same UP study noted that the prevalence of symptoms of respiratory diseases among schoolchildren ranged from 4.8 percent to 27.5 percent and from 15.8 percent to 40.6 percent among child vendors.

Effects on drivers, commuters and the children have increased costs of health. Lantion said at least P2,000 is being spent by each Filipino on health, or a total of P160 billion for some 80 million Filipinos.

This still excludes nonhealth costs of air pollution such as productivity losses, wage losses and the damage to the ecosystem.

As to public awareness, Lantion said about 75 percent believe air pollution levels are now alarming. Citing a survey, he said 96 percent of the people, including the drivers themselves, agree that smoke-belchers be apprehended.

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