Mumbai has unusually high levels of PM1 (Particulate Matter) in monsoon, according to the government’s latest air quality monitoring system figures. Ultra-fine particulate matter is considered dangerous to health.
The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) found PM1 levels on certain days peaked to 30 microgrammes per cubic meter (µg/m3).
“PM1 is inevitable given vehicular traffic in Mumbai. Levels should be below 5-10µg/m3. But it is already high during monsoon.
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Generally, monsoon is the least polluted season and levels only rise in winter and summer,” SAFAR director Gufran Beig said.
Unlike PM10 (coarse particles) that can go up when there is dust, PM1 levels remain high even in wet weather, because the fine particles are not easily washed away during rains. There is no safe standards for PM1 because there is no level that can protect everyone from its health impacts, said SAFAR director Gufran Beig. This is the first time that PM1 levels are being monitored in the city.
Studies show PM1 is the cause of pollution-linked cardiovascular disease. “Being finer than other pollutants, PM1 particles can easily penetrate into lungs,” said head of chest medicine department and environmental pollution research centre at KEM hospital. Vehicles are major contributors of PM1, particularly diesel vehicles.
PM1 levels in the past three months were recorded at pilot stations of Colaba and Chembur. SAFAR project now includes Automatic Weather Stations at Borivali, Malad-Malvani, Bhandup, Varsova, Andheri, Sakinaka, Kurla, Dharavi, Mahim, Worli, Byculla, Mahul, and Mankhurd. Data from SAFAR stations showed that the city’s air quality index was ‘moderate to poor’ in May, and was upgraded to ‘good’ in June. Until June 9, UV radiation was in the ‘moderate to high-risk’ range. SAFAR is hopeful PM 1 level will go down during monsoon.