This Diwali, Chandigarh inhaled hazardous air as the air quality plummeted to ‘very poor’ category as compared to previous Diwali. The air quality was at its worst in three years since 2017. Many people complained of respiratory illness after Diwali night at PGIMER.
Despite restrictions on the bursting the crackers and awareness campaigns not to use crackers, PM 2.5 and PM 10 level — particulate matter — was double than what it was last Diwali. PM 2.5, one of the most deadly pollutants, remained at one of the highest marks which is a matter of concern as it can travel deep into the respiratory tract.
According to the Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee, at monitoring station of Sector 22, PM2.5 level which was 134 micrograms per cubic metre on last Diwali (November 7, 2018) was recorded almost double this time which was 212 micrograms per cubic metre. Similarly, PM 10 level which was 187 micrograms per cubic metre last Diwali shot up to 280 micrograms per cubic metre. The air quality index in this belt was “very poor”, that is 371 micrograms per cubic metre. Under very poor category, prolonged exposure can cause respiratory illness.
From 0-50 category, the air quality is considered good, while from 51-100, it is satisfactory. However, from 101-200 micrograms per cubic metre, the air quality comes within the “moderate” category which causes breathing discomfort to people with lung and heart diseases.
From 201-300, it is considered poor while from 301-400 micrograms per cubic metre, it is considered very poor and from 401-500, it slips into the severe category.
Similarly, at the monitoring station of Sector 17, the air quality index that was 177 micrograms per cubic metre last Diwali recorded at 247 mark this time at this location. Here, PM 2.5 level was 104 micrograms per cubic metre this time which was 83 micrograms per cubic metre last Diwali. PM 10 level was 173 microgram per cubic metre that was 124 last year.
Only at the monitoring station of PEC sector 12, the air quality index was down by a few notches. It was 280 micrograms per cubic metre this time as compared to 297 micrograms per cubic metre.
At the IMTECH monitoring station, PM 2.5 and PM10, which were 170 and 225 micrograms per cubic metre last Diwali, were recorded 187 and 240 micrograms per cubic metre this time respectively.
Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is an air pollutant that is a cause for concern. PM2.5 is a tiny particle in the air that reduces visibility and causes the air to appear hazy when levels are elevated. PM 2.5 size ranges are able to travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. According to doctors, 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. Prolonged exposure can deteriorate the respiratory health of people.
Dr D Behera, head of pulmonary department of PGIMER, said that at the OPD not only patients who have a history of respiratory problem had complained of breathlessness, but there were also many who complained of it for the first time citing exposure to the cracker bursting.
Noise up at some places, down at others
It appeared that city residents used those crackers which did not cause much noise but caused a lot of pollution.
The noise level reported a spike at certain locations while it came down at certain other locations in different time slots.
Between 6 pm and 7 pm, Sector 22 station recorded 64.1 decibels which was higher than Diwali last year, which was 59.8 decibels. During other time slots till 12 midnight, the noise level was slightly low as compared to previous Diwali, but much higher than what it is on normal days.
At the monitoring station of Sector 17, between 10 pm and 11 pm and 11 pm and 12 midnight on Sunday, the noise level was 62.2 and 56.5 decibels respectively as compared to 59.5 and 55.4 decibels during the same time slot last Diwali. On normal days, the same time slots faced lower noise level. AT PEC monitoring station and IMTECH-39, the noise level remained slightly lower than the previous year’s Diwali.
A senior official of the Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee said that there can be a possibility that crackers like anar, fuljhadi and chakri that do not cause much noise pollution but are very high on air pollution, had been used. HINA ROHTAKI