April 10, 2017 5:32:10 am
Significant traces of lead was found in ambient air samples near a kerbside monitoring site set up on Mathura Road by researchers from the IIT-Delhi.
Though leaded petrol has been phased out in the capital for nearly a decade now, lead concentration was observed to be quite high in samples taken over two phases in 2014 and 2015. The study was conducted by IIT-Delhi, University of Birmingham and Desert Research Institute, USA, and was funded by UKIERI, British Council.
The site was set up to monitor PM2.5 levels and characterise the components to determine concentrations of elements.
“Fine PM concentration is of main concern since these particles can enter the respiratory system and get deposited in the lungs. They affect both respiratory and cardio-vascular systems… and can cause mortality and morbidity,” the report states.
“Since unleaded petrol is in use at the moment, we expected to find very little traces. Initially, we attributed the high concentration of lead to batteries that might have been disposed nearby but this was not the case,” said Isha Khanna, a researcher, who is currently pursuing a PhD in environmental studies at IIT-Delhi. “Lead has a high residual time and takes a while to decompose,” she said. Studies have shown that presence of lead in the human body can lead to toxic effects.
The IIT-Delhi’s September 2016 technical report ‘Receptor Modelling of Fine Air Pollutants’ also found several other alarming elements such as copper, zinc, cadmium and arsenic.
“This was a location-specific study and it’s unique in that PM2.5 categorisation was not available in the Delhi-NCR area, In fact, it’s available in very few places in India so this served as an in-depth categorisation of PM2.5,” said Mukesh Khare, professor of environmental engineering in IIT-Delhi, who lead the research team in India. “The findings are significant for mitigation policy but since this was a two-season data collection, more sampling in other areas should be conducted,” he said.
The samples were collected on National Highway 2 to see how much traffic coming in from outside Delhi contributes to the formation of particulate matter. The team used two sets of filters: teflon filters to capture traces of metals and irons and quartz filters to capture organic material.
The study was designed to fill the gap on the contributions of different sources to the concentrations measured. Such information is currently insufficient for India, Khare noted.
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