Air pollution levels at six places US President Barack Obama is slated to visit are three times more than Indian safety standards and nine times that of the World Health Organisation limit (WHO), a study revealed.
The study was conducted on Friday by Greenpeace India. The locations include Raj Ghat and Hyderabad House. It revealed that the air quality was 'unhealthy and hazardous'.
"The organisation followed US President Obama's route and used an air-monitoring device called PDR 1500 to track the pollution levels. "We wanted to find out how much pollution president Obama is expected to breathe. Our data and readings are quite shocking. Despite the wet weather, the real-time, instant exposure levels were found to be poor and unhealthy," a statement from the NGO said.
It said, "Greenpeace India monitors the PM2.5 levels in Central Delhi and finds peak pollution levels to be three times the Indian safety limits, nine times that of the WHO's and 2.5 times the average levels in Beijing."
The maximum level of PM2.5 was 264 micrograms/cubic metre at Janpath while at Hyderabad House it was 239 micrograms/cubic meter, the study said. At Rajghat, it was 229 micrograms/cubic meter.
The NGO also said that Delhi residents have been breathing extremely poor air this winter with PM2.5 averages peaking at 320 micrograms/cubic meter, which is six times the Indian safety limits and 14 times that of the WHO's.
Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter are called fine particles as they are so small they can be detected only with an electron microscope. PM2.5 has been recognised as a major health hazard all around the world resulting in a wide range of illnesses including cancer. Its impacts are felt most on the respiratory, reproductive and cardiac systems leading to an increased rate of mortality.
"The precautionary measures being taken by the US government to ensure the safety of their president is a clear indication of how unacceptable the pollution levels in Delhi are," said Aishwaraya Madineni, Greenpeace India campaigner. She said that although US President Obama will soon be returning home the people of Delhi will be left to breathe the same toxic air.
"Delhi's air quality was at its worst this winter with heavy episodes of smog leading to PM2.5 averages soaring at 320 micrograms/cubic meter. This is extremely dangerous," she added.