Delhi, Kolkata have worst air quality in India

The Times of India, Oct 19, 2013

With the World Heath Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer declaring air pollution as a major cause of cancer, its findings have put the focus on Indian hotspots like Delhi, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Jharkhand which showed high concentration of life-threatening air pollutants.

Air quality data of the government’s pollution watchdog, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), for 2010 – the last one in the series of such reports on air quality across the country – shows that Kolkata and Delhi are among the worst affected cities in terms of air pollution.

In fact, figures compiled by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for 2009-11 vindicate what the world health body has concluded while putting ‘air pollution’ in the same category as tobacco, UV radiation and plutonium as lung cancer causing agents.

Delhi air pollution lessons for other metros

G.S. MUDUR

New Delhi, Dec. 17: Air pollution over Delhi kills at least 20 people every day and triggers an estimated six million asthma attacks each year, a study has suggested.

Researchers at IIT Delhi say their study of the capital’s air pollution loads also holds lessons for India’s other metros on why efforts to improve city air quality sometimes don’t work.

The study, published last week in the journal Environmental Development, used a mathematical model to estimate the health impacts of air pollution from sources such as vehicle exhaust, diesel generators and brick kilns.

What is Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5)?

The term fine particles, or particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5), refers to tiny particles or droplets in the air that are two and one half microns or less in width. Like inches, meters and miles, a micron is a unit of measurement for distance. There are about 25,000 microns in an inch. The widths of the larger particles in the PM2.5 size range would be about thirty times smaller than that of a human hair. The smaller particles are so small that several thousand of them could fit on the period at the end of this sentence.

How can PM2.5 affect my health?

Particles in the PM2.5 size range are able to travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. Exposure to fine particles can cause short-term health effects such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. Exposure to fine particles can also affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. Scientific studies have linked increases in daily PM2.5 exposure with increased respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions, emergency department visits and deaths. Studies also suggest that long term exposure to fine particulate matter may be associated with increased rates of chronic bronchitis, reduced lung function and increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease. People with breathing and heart problems, children and the elderly may be particularly sensitive to PM2.5.

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