Various symptoms exhibited by residents of Ambapada and Chereshwar in Chembur, including skin and eye irritation, breathlessness, choking sensation in the chest and frequent sneezing, match the listed health hazards of the chemical toluene diisocyanate whose presence has been recorded in the air in the suburb, a report by the Environment Pollution Research Centre (EPRC) of KEM Hospital has found.
“Toluene diisocyanate can be toxic in minimal concentration also and its health effects listed match the health effects observed in the pollution of Ambapada and Chereshwar,” stated the report.
The report presents a grim picture of air pollution in the suburb even as Union Minister of State for Chemical and Fertilizers Hansraj Ahir on Monday announced that the Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Ltd (RCF) plant at Sion-Chembur (Trombay) will soon double its capacity.
The KEM’s December 2014 report, submitted to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) recently, recommended ‘immediately undertaking containment measures for emission of toluene’. “Learning from our experience regarding methyl isocyanate tragedy in Bhopal in 1984, it may be worthwhile to undertake monitoring of toluene diisocyanate which is toxic in concentrations as low as 0.5ppm,” said Dr Amita Athavale, professor and head, department of chest medicine and EPRC, in the report.
KEM was ordered by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to provide a ‘holistic view’ on the air pollution at Mahul village in Chembur. Residents of Mahul and Ambapada villages had filed a case in NGT against a container and chemicals firm for allegedly causing pollution. The report was based on the emission inventory report by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB).
In June 2014, MPCB found that Toluene levels measured over the terrace of residents of Ambapada and Chereshwar were 41 microgrammes per cubic metre (max) and 15.3 microgrammes per cubic metre respectively and maximum levels of Toluene ranged between 15.4 microgrammes per cubic metre to 83 microgrammes per cubic metre at RCF guest house, Pepsico main gate, BPCL, Sealord and Aegis Main gate and Tata Power in the vicinity. “Observed monitoring results state levels of Toluene are quite high, but there is no ambient air quality standards specified for Toluene,” the KEM report stated.
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