A study of particulate matter in 10 Indian cities shows winter levels of PM 2.5 (particles of size 2.5 microns and smaller) exceeding the permissible standard by over three times in Delhi and by nearly two times in Pune, Srinagar and Patiala. Data show November and December levels exceeding the Indian governmet standard of 60 micrograms per cubic metre in all 10 cities, with Delhi’s crossing µg per cu.m and the other three cities’ 100 µg per cu.m.
Dr Gufran Beig, chief project scientist at from Modelling Air Pollution and Networking (MAPAN), an air pollution research study of the Ministry of Earth Sciences and implemented by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, said PM 2.5 particles travel deep into the respiratory tract, causing breathing problems. “Our system provides details about oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, black carbon and benzene present in the air. WHO has listed air pollution as a carcinogenic.”
A steering committee of experts set up by the health ministry to examine the extent of pollution’s effect on public health will meet for the first time in Delhi on February 4. Experts such as Dr S K Jindal, head of pulmonary medicine at PGI Chandigarh, and Dr Sundeep Salvi, director of Chest Research Foundation in Pune, are among the group that will deliberate on strategies. “We plan to assess a series of studies and identify strategies to minimise the risks,” Salvi said.
“After cardiovascular diseases, the second most important cause of death among non-communicable diseases is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” said Dr Damodar Bachani, deputy commissioner (NCDs) in the ministry.
While Delhi was ruled by the Congress during the major part of the period under study, Jain said the white paper was not a political move.