Saturday, September 08, 2007

Pure, for sure

Permission to reproduce this article has to be obtained from The New Indian Express

An oxygen parlour at Traffic West police station, the first in the state, rapidly gains in popularity

By Shevlin Sebastian

In July, 2004, Circle Inspector D.S. Suneesh Babu read an article in the New Indian Express about an oxygen parlour being opened for policemen in Hyderabad. That was when he got the idea of starting one in Kerala. In the article it was stated that BPL Healthcare were making these oxygenators. He got in touch with the local dealer, C.H. Suresh and placed an order for two. It cost Rs 60,000 each. While one was sponsored by the Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association, the other was given by a group of doctors. "I wanted to bring some relief to our traffic constables who suffer from respiratory ailments," says Babu.

In the courtyard of the Traffic West police station, near the High Court, there is a hut-like cement structure, with a tiled roof that is shaped like a frozen wave. The words, 'Oxygen Parlour' is pasted in black on the front door. Inside, there is just a small room, wide enough for a cot to be placed, along with four plastic chairs and a side table. A floor fan offers some respite from the heat. The oxygenators are placed on the floor and you have the option of lying down or sitting while receiving the oxygen. "We get about 15 policemen on an average every day," says constable, K. Sabu, 31, who mans the parlour from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

One who has come for relief is constable P.O. Reji, 34, who does stints at various points in the city, like the Madhava Pharmacy junction. "While working, a lot of smoke and dust enters our lungs," he says. "Sometimes, I am unable to breathe. We feel very tired after we finish our duty. When there is a break and I have the time, I come and inhale some oxygen. There is a cooling effect on the body."

Mohanan C. Manjakara, the pulmonologist at Lakeshore Hospital, says that inhaling pure oxygen, especially for constables, is helpful as it helps reduce the carboxyhaemoglobin in the blood. “They will feel fresh for a little while,” he says.

The oxygenator has two plastic tubes, with nose clips at one end. When one inserts the tubes into the nose and Sabu turns the knob on, the pressure is so low, one is not sure whether any air is going in. So Sabu pulls out the tubes and places it over the eyes. It is then that one experiences a gust of air. "Because the pressure is low, you have to inhale for about twenty minutes," says Sabu, as he pushes the tubes back into the nose.

As to why there is no pressure, Suresh, the BPL dealer, says the continuous process of taking the air from the atmosphere, getting it processed and delivering it means there is no storage. "You cannot have any pressure if there is no storage," he says.
So how does the oxygenator work? When it is switched on, it takes in the atmospheric air, which contains about 20 per cent of oxygen and 80 per cent nitrogen. The air is sent through an ordinary filter, then through two sieve beds, which contains zeolite granules. Every 20 seconds, the nitrogen is discharged, through a magnetic valve, and a popping sound is heard. "Since the air is dry, it is sent through two humidifier bottles," says Suresh. The end result is 93 per cent pure oxygen.

However, even after the allotted 20 minutes of inhaling, there is not much of a difference for me, just a cool feeling around the head. "A normal person using an oxygenator will not experience much of a change," says Suresh. "But, for constables, there is a significant difference."

True, there may be a difference for constables, but it is temporary. The pollution is going to get worse, as the number of vehicles continues to increase at a relentless pace. Nevertheless, this oxygen parlour provides a much needed respite for these harried men in uniform.

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