People living in the cities are dying prematurely. Air around we live in and breathe is becoming poisonous day in and day out.

Decades  of painstaking research have now provided clear evidence that an increase in number of cases of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases can be directly traced to higher pollution levels in the atmosphere. It is also found that people living in polluted areas die prematurely. In the  recently published report entitled “State of Global Air 2017”,  it was pointed out that exposure to PM 2.5, the leading environmental risk factor for death, accounted for about 4.2 million deaths in 2015 and ranked 5th worldwide among the risks, including smoking, diet and high blood pressure.

 

pollution settles over shanghai as barge passes on river POISON IN THE AIR

Particulate Matter (PM)

Commonly used indicators describing PM that are relevant to health refer to the mass concentration of particles with a diameter of less than 10 μm (PM10) and of particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 μm (PM2.5). PM2.5, often called fine PM, also comprises ultrafine particles having a diameter of less than 0.1 μm. In most locations in Europe, PM2.5 constitutes 50–70% of PM10. PM between 0.1 μm and 1 μm in diameter can remain in the atmosphere for days or weeks and thus be subject to long-range transboundary transport in the air.

particulate matter POISON IN THE AIR

 

PM is a mixture with physical and chemical characteristics varying by location. Common chemical constituents of PM include sulfates, nitrates, ammonium, other inorganic ions such as ions of sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride, organic and elemental carbon, crustal material, particle-bound water, metals (including cadmium, copper, nickel, vanadium and zinc) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). In addition, biological components such as allergens and microbial compounds are found in PM.

 PM2.5

The  most  dangerous  pollutants  in the air  are the particles which are smaller  than 2.5 micron (about 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair).  They enter the nose and throat , reach deep into  the lungs and some may even enter into your blood stream. Their effect on human health is  well established .  They include:

  • Respiratory and cardiovascular morbidity, such as aggravation of asthama, respiratory symptoms and increase in hospital admissions;
  • Mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and from lung cancer.

air CHpollution and smog POISON IN THE AIR

 

According to a report published in  “The Lancet Public Health”,  polluted air was responsible in 2015 for 6.4 million deaths wordwide: 2.8 million from household air pollution and 4.2 million from ambient air pollution.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION  STANDARDS

In 2005, the World Health Organization set the Air Quality Guideline for annual average PM2.5 concentration at 10  μg/cubic meter and also the target for achieving this goal in three progressive steps. The NASA, based on data compiled from satellite measurements, has found that 80 per cent of the world population lives in the areas that exceed this value. However, in our country the Revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) has fixed annual average PM2.5 concentration at 40μg/cubic meter. (Courtsey: the Central Pollution Control Board) This state of affair is not acceptable. A democratic government must not only be knowledgeable, but also transparent in dealings with its own citizens.

In this scenario, is it not a criminal negligence on the part of the authorities, if a city like Bhopal has PM2.5 Annual average of 105μg/cubic meter in the air as per their own admission?

 REFERENCES:

(1) Health Effects Institute 2017.  State of Global Air 2017. Special Report.

(2) World Health Organisation:  “Health effects of particulate matter”

Policy implications for countries in eastern Europe,Caucasus and central Asia

(3) Global View of  Fine  Aerosol Particles:  Visible Earth. NASA (USA)

(4) Pollutants: Particulate Matter (PM), United Nations Environment  Programme.

(5) World Health Organisation:  “Health effects of particulate matter” Policy implications for countries in eastern Europe, Caucasus and central Asia

(6) Air pollution and health: “The Lancet Public  Health”  January 2017

References:

(7) World Health Organisation:  “Health effects of particulate matter”

Policy implications for countries in eastern Europe,Caucasus and central Asia

(8) Global View of  Fine  Aerosol Particles:  Visible Earth. NASA (USA)

(9) Central Pollution Control Board letter dt.24.11. 2016 in response to RTI on air pollution in India

 

By Vimlesh Kumar

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