PM2.5 level in Delhi 10 times more than WHO limits: Greenpeace

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New Delhi | Published: February 16, 2015 10:36:08 PM

In an alarming news about the quality of air in Delhi, a survey has found the deadly PM2.5 levels in the national capital...

A foreign tourist wears a mask to protect herself from pollutants while walking on a sideway in New Delhi, India, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. When U.S. President Barack Obama visits New Delhi from Sunday, he will join the Indian capital's masses in breathing some of the world's filthiest air. Hazy skies will serve as the backdrop to meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other officials who are expected to discuss India's biggest environmental woes: Heavy reliance on fossil fuels that has transformed New Delhi into the planet's most polluted capital and made India the third biggest national emitter of greenhouse gases. (AP)A file photo of a foreign tourist wearing a mask to protect herself from pollutants while walking on a sideway in New Delhi, India. (AP)

In an alarming news about the quality of air in Delhi, a survey has found the deadly PM2.5 levels in the national capital was 10 times higher than the safety limit prescribed by the World Health Organisation.

Air quality monitoring survey conducted by Greenpeace inside five prominent schools in the city also found that the PM2.5 levels were four times more against the prescribed Indian safety limits.

“The real-time monitoring data from all the five schools revealed particulate matter 2.5 to be at very unhealthy levels,” a Greenpeace release said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution impacts the most vulnerable sections of the population and children were among the worst hit.

The survey was conducted between January 23 and February 12 at the schools including Greenfield Public School (Vivek Vihar in East Delhi), Mirambika School (Sri Aurobindo Marg in South Delhi), Delhi Police Public School (Safdarjung Enclave in South West Delhi), Salwan Public School (Rajender Nagar in Central Delhi) and American Embassy School (Chanakyapuri in South West Delhi).

The survey showed that the maximum level of PM2.5 at Greenfield Public School in Vivek Vihar on January 23 was 253.

It was 209 at the American Embassy School on February 12.

The maximum level of PM2.5 was 243 at Salwan Public School on February 5. At Mirambika School the maximum level of PM2.5 was 251 on January 27. It was 246 at Delhi Public School on February 5.

Studies by US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) have concluded that exposure to PM2.5 in children will mean reduced lung functioning, increase in asthma and respiratory illnesses.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified particulate matter pollution as carcinogenic to humans in 2013, and designated it as a “leading environmental cause of cancer deaths”.

Greenpeace said the annual PM2.5 averages of Delhi were higher than that of Beijing, and this winter Delhiites witnessed several bad-air days with the Air Quality Index averaging at critical pollution levels.

Aishwarya Madineni, campaigner with Greenpeace, said this establishes the fact that air pollution levels inside Delhi’s schools were alarmingly high and that children were consistently breathing bad air.

“The government needs to acknowledge the severity of air pollution in the city and its corresponding health impacts. Our monitoring results, though conducted towards the end of winter revealed very high levels of particulate pollution inside the school premises, and in peak winter these numbers could only be worse.

“It is appalling to see that there are no health advisory measures in place for Delhiites on heavy pollution days,” Madineni said.

Expressing concern over the rising trend in the pollution levels, Dr Vikram Jaggi, Director of Asthma and Allergy Centres said, “the winter of 2014 has particularly been a bad one for the asthmatics, the consistency in the smog resulted in an increased number of asthma cases for almost a period of three months.”

According to Centre of Occupational Environment and Health Director, Dr T K Joshi, first indicators of air pollution are felt upon the mucous membranes, eyes and nasal cavities.

“A common problem faced by Delhiites on a daily basis is eye irritation and watering in the eye and exposure to such high levels of pollution will mean serious health damages in the long run,” he said.

Unlike Beijing on bad-air days, Delhi has neither the precautionary measures nor a health advisory in place to safe-guards its citizens from hazardous levels of pollution in the air.

Demanding action from the Delhi and central government, Madineni said, the Delhi government needs to act on it now rather than later.

“While we agree that there needs to be a comprehensive effort from the government to curb the pollution levels, the more immediate need is for the precautionary measures that can ensure the health and safety of the children and citizens of Delhi”, Madineni said.

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