AM I at Risk?

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PM10 Levels across Maharashtra in 2015

Source : Greenpeace. (2015), Airpocalypse: assessment of air pollution in Indian cities.

Impact of Particulate Matter pollution on lives in Maharashtra

Source : https://aqli.epic.uchicago.edu/

Particulate Matter Sizes

Source : urbanemissions.blogspot.in

Impacts of air pollution on public health

Source : https://www.grida.no/resources/7544

What is particulate matter?

Particulate matter (PM) is a widespread air pollutant, consisting of a mixture of solid and liquid particles suspended in the air. PM is a mixture with physical and chemical characteristics varying by location. Common chemical constituents of PM include sulphates, nitrates, ammonium, 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.

Commuters attempt to protect themselves against air pollution negotiating city traffic. Mumbai, India

(Source: Auscape/UIG via Getty Images)

Where does particulate matter originate from?

Particles can either be directly emitted into the air (primary PM) or be formed in the atmosphere from gaseous precursors such as sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, ammonia and non-methane volatile organic compounds (secondary PM).

Man-made sources of PM include the combustion of diesel, petrol, coal, lignite, heavy oil and biomass. Agricultural activity can also lead to high ammonium content in the atmosphere. Other industrial activities such as building, mining, manufacture of cement, ceramic, bricks, and smelting can also give rise to particular matter.

PM is also formed in the air through chemical reactions of gaseous pollutants. These include nitrogen oxides emitted by traffic and certain industrial processes, and sulphur dioxide resulting from the combustion of sulphur-containing fuels, when gasoline is extracted from oil or when metals are extracted from ore.

PM 10 and PM 2.5 include inhalable particles that are small enough to penetrate our windpipe and lungs. The harmful effects of PM are well documented:

  • Respiratory and cardiovascular morbidity: Such as aggravation of asthma, bronchitis, high blood pressure etc.
  • Mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases: Such as cardiac arrest, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease etc.

The bars show the number of cities in each country with average annual PM2.5 concentrations in a given range. Bars in red show cities that exceed national air-quality standards (NAAQS). The World Health Organization considers an annual average of 10 micrograms per cubic meter to be safe. India’s air-quality standards set the limit at 40 micrograms per cubic meter. (Greenstone et al, 2015)

Heat map showing distribution of particulate matter (PM 2.5) concentration around the world

(Source: Yale EPI (2012) derived from NASA MODIS data products)

Heat map showing distribution of particulate matter (PM 2.5) concentration across India

(Source: Greenstone et al, 2015)

Children cover their face, attempting to protect themselves from air pollution. November 7, 2012 in New Delhi, India.

(Source: Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

What can we do?

The first step to improving air quality is regular monitoring of particulate matter and other air pollutants. MPCB’s star-rating program for industrial PM emissions is a step in this direction. Up to 80% of particulate air pollution can be reduced with currently available technologies. A few of these are listed below:

  • Reduce wood and biomass combustion and replace with cleaner energy alternatives
  • Reduce industry pollution emissions through incentivizing pollution abatement technology
  • Initiate wet street cleaning instead of dry street cleaning
  • Encourage regular vehicle pollution checks
  • Regulate the increase in PM due to construction

Improving our environment requires concerted action by public authorities, industry and individuals at national, regional and even international levels.

SO, ARE YOU AT RISK?

If you stay in any of the following places – you need to take necessary precautions. A recent study found that if air pollution stayed within the recommended WHO (World Health Organisation) limits, life expectancy in major cities in Maharashtra would go up by the following numbers –

Thane 3.4 years | Mumbai 3.5 years | Pune 3.7 years | Nagpur 3.9 years | Nashik 2.8 years

Air pollution is robbing the above number of years from your life if you live in any of these cities.