AT THE Deonar dumping ground, the amount of particulate matter found in the air is more than 40 times above normal, showed the data recorded by Environment Policy and Research India (EPRI).
Particulate Matter (PM) is the concentration of solid particles such as dust, dirt, smoke, soot and bioaerosol suspended in the air, which works as a pollutant and is hazardous when inhaled. Avick Sil, regional director of EPRI, said such high amount of particulate matter raises major health concerns.
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There have been multiple pocket fires in the dumping ground since last week. Their data showed the PM level to be between the range of 4100ug/m3 to 4410 ug/m3. The safety limit prescribed for the PM level in the air in India is 100ug/m3. The team also used dust suppressants as a demonstration to examine whether the PM could be reduced.
“We managed to bring down the PM levels marginally between 3,580 to 3,690 ug/m3 by spraying the dust suppressants but it did not last long because of fluctuation in the wind. We have suggested to the fire brigade and the MCGM that if this is done across the dumping ground in a sustained manner, it could help,”Sil told The Indian Express.
EPRI’s reading includes variable PMs based on their size in microns. Experts say that the smaller and finer the particles , the bigger danger they pose, as they can enter deep into the lungs and some may even enter the bloodstream.
Prolonged inhaling of particulate matter can lead to lung irritation, respiratory illnesses and susceptibility to viral and bacterial pathogens. Many residents in the vicinity of the dumping ground have been suffering from respiratory ailments since the fire broke out. “Particulate matter can remain in the atmosphere for days or weeks and also be transported through air to other areas,” Sil said.
An increase in PM levels is also known to affect visibility, as was seen in Mumbai in the past week. The Air Quality Index too, recorded by SAFAR, has been in the ‘very poor’ category, particularly in areas around the dumping ground.
Meanwhile, chief fire officer P Rahangdale said that they managed to douse the fire completely Friday morning. “The fire has been brought under control. We continue to have some of our staff and equipment on standby because there is a possibility that the fire can reignite,” Rahangdale told The Indian Express. Rahangdale added that they have sent a proposal to the BMC to have 2-3 fire engines permanently at the dumping ground, for immediate response to pocket fires.