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/

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

Source : ग्रीनस्टोन इ, 2015

Histogram of PM emissions in cities by country/ region: Bars in red show cities that exceed US National Air-Quality Standards (NAAQS)

Source : ग्रीनस्टोन इ, 2015

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

Source : NASA MODIS डेटा उत्पादनांकडून मिळालेला येल ईपीआय (2012)

Particulate Matter Sizes

Source : urbanemissions.blogspot.in

Impacts of air pollution on public health

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

What are the causes and effects of air pollution?

The issue of air pollution is on the global radar, with India too focusing its policies on the issue. The National Clean Air program (NCAP) in India has identified more than 100 Indian cities that are non-compliant with ambient particulate matter standards. According to the NCAP document, “India has been going through a phase of accelerated industrial activities for the past three decades. The associated growth in terms of industrialization and urbanization has led to manifold increase in pollution issues, more specifically air pollution issues”.

Air pollution can be caused by multiple sources – burning of fossil fuels, agricultural activities, mining operations, industrial operations etc. Particularly in cities, air pollution is caused by re-suspension of road dust, vehicular emissions, burning of Biomass, crop residue and garbage and construction and demolition activities, among others. Such pollution can adversely impact human health, it can lead to severe respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. As a result, it can reduce average human life expectancy depending on degree of exposure.

One of the primary air pollutants is particulate matter. The Maharashtra Star Rating Program seeks to reduce air pollution arising out of industrial emissions by empowering the affected people with information on Particulate matter emissions of the polluters.

What is particulate matter?

Particulate matter (PM) is a widespread air pollutant. It consists of a mixture of solid and liquid particles suspended in the air. The physical and chemical characteristics of PM vary by location. Common chemical constituents of PM include sulphates, nitrates, ammonium, inorganic ions, organic and elemental carbon, crustal material, particle-bound water, metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). In addition, biological components such as allergens and microbial compounds are found in PM. Particulate matter is a key component of industrial emissions that affects that the air that we breathe.

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 are either directly emitted into the air (primary PM) or formed in the atmosphere from gases 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 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.

To learn more about which industries are polluting the air near you, see Industry Ratings

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)

How does particulate matter affect my health?

PM10 and PM2.5 include 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 asthma, bronchitis, high blood pressure etc.
  • Mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases: Such as cardiac arrest, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, etc.

What are the steps that we can take for the prevention of air pollution?

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. Further, city air quality can be monitored through the city rating page or the Air Quality Index data available at the MPCB and the CPCB website. Currently available technologies can reduce air pollution up to 80%. 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. The Star Rating program seeks to involve the general public in this fight for prevention of air pollution.


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.