Balik Scientist recommends work hazard compensation for metro traffic enforcers

Published May 31, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

Dr. Emmanuel S. Baja presents his study findings during the DOSTkusyon conducted by the DOST for the Balik-Scientist program. (Photo by Henri A. de Leon, DOST-STII)
Dr. Emmanuel S. Baja presents his study findings during the DOSTkusyon conducted by the DOST for the Balik-Scientist program. (Photo by Henri A. de Leon, DOST-STII)

In a study that assessed the cardio-pulmonary health of 158 traffic enforcers from Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), a team of researchers led by Balik-Scientist Dr. Emmanuel S. Baja of NIH-UP Manila found that exposure to black carbon and heavy metals affected the blood pressure (BP), inflammation, and lung function of traffic enforcers on duty.

According to Dr. Baja, the findings can provide some evidence for traffic enforcers to have some form of occupational hazard compensation.

Investigating the effect of black carbon on diastolic and systolic BPs, the research team also studied whether these effects vary according to the participating enforcers’ individual characteristics. The researchers also wanted to find out the link between exposure to traffic-related air pollution and other cardiovascular and pulmonary outcomes at times within days of exposure.

Systolic BP refers to the top number of the BP reading, while diastolic refers to the bottom number. The former refers to the force emitted by the heart as it pushes blood and creates pressure on the blood vessels. The latter refers to the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats, when the heart gets filled with blood and oxygen.

Effects on cardio-pulmonary health

The study found out that exposure to increasing ambient black carbon, a marker of vehicular gas and diesel traffic-pollution, may increase the systolic blood pressure among traffic enforcers who are women and those who are “ever smokers.”

Additionally, the study showed that black carbon may decrease lung function among enforcers who are obese, or who are non-smokers, or who are men.

Regarding exposure to heavy metals, lead was found in the enforcers’ blood which may be associated with increased C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of systemic inflammation. More susceptible to the increase in CRP are enforcers who are female, or who are never smokers.

Dr. Baja also said that the study provides additional evidence that heavy metal or black carbon via the inflammation pathway may be a factor in heart damage of traffic enforcers.

Hazard pay for enforcers

“Currently, the traffic enforcers don’t have any kind of hazard pay as part of their salary,” Baja said.

“This evidenced-based research could help them ask for certain compensation from the Department of Budget and Management and local government units.”

Hazard pay for traffic enforcers has been constantly proposed in the past. Dr. Baja hopes that the results of their study would serve as strong evidence of the need for such occupational hazard compensation for traffic enforcers and traffic aids.

According to Dr. Baja, his team did the health assessment of the enforcers along Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) in Metro Manila from 5:00 am to 2:00 pm. The enforcers’ toenails and blood were collected for metal exposure assessment and their blood for inflammatory marker. They also assessed the enforcers’ lung function and blood pressure.

This health research was funded by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, the government agency that funded health-related technologies, such as the RxBox, Biotek-M, OL Trap, Lagundi tablet and syrup, Sambong tablet, Yerba buena tablet, Tsaang Gubat, and Axis Knee System, among others.