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Delhi’s pollution levels higher early morning; joggers, children at most risk

Breathless in Delhi Updated: Nov 04, 2016 14:03 IST
Soumya Pillai
air pollution

Weather experts say that pollution levels are higher in the morning due to low wind speeds, trapping particulate matter in the air. (HT File Photo)

If you think that morning walks are the best way to get some fresh air in Delhi, think again. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s (DPCC) data of last week shows that the pollution levels in the city were the highest between 4 and 8am.

The level of PM 2.5 -- particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers -- was recorded at above 300 micrograms per cubic meter throughout last week.

The situation worsened after Diwali, when levels hovered around the 500 mark. These levels are categorised ‘severe’, and lead to a shutdown in cities such as Beijing.

The prescribed levels of PM 2.5 in India is 60 micrograms per cubic meters, which is four times the standard set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Read | India’s air quality among world’s worst over Diwali weekend: Report

Weather experts said that pollution levels are the highest early in the day because of low wind movement, and thus these particles get trapped in the air.

Trucks which pass through the city through the night and sweeping activities by civic workers early in the morning make matters worse.

“In India, the concept of night sweeping or mechanised sweeping is yet to gain popularity. When the sweeping happens at night, the particles have time to settle down before human movement resumes in the morning,” said Aseem Khan, an environment lawyer.

Read | Delhi, learn to clear the air: How five world cities got rid of smog

Morning walkers and children heading to school are the most vulnerable to such high toxic smog.

According to doctors, it’s best to avoid physical activity early in the mornings or late in the evenings.

“When the temperature is low, pollutants get trapped closer to the ground so there is high concentration of pollutants in the air we breathe. Strenuous activity at this time leads to people inhaling greater volumes of minute pollutants, which get lodged in the lungs,” said Dr GC Khilnani, a professor in the department of pulmonary medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

“Shift workout time from early mornings to between 11 am and 4 pm when the air a bit clearer.”

To check the air quality in your city, click here.