Chembur, which bore the brunt of pollution from fires at the Deonar dumping ground, has high levels of ammonia (NH3) in its air, revealed data from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) Environment Status Report (ESR) 2015-16. High ammonia levels can aggravate lung diseases, said doctors.
According to the report, at BMC’s air monitoring station at Maravali, ammonia levels were 424 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3), 493 µg/m3 and 1,080 µg/m3, during May, July and August last year. The Central Pollution Control Board pegs the safety limit for ammonia at 400 µg/m3 for 24 hours and 100 µg/m3 for a year. The ammonia levels in the air from April 2015 to March 2016 were above 100 µg/m3, which was not the case at any other BMC air monitoring station across the city.
Residents said that on certain days, the smell of industrial emissions burns their eyes and makes it difficult to breathe. Rajkumar Sharma, a Chembur resident, said, “We are forced to keep our doors and windows shut on those days.”
Scientists attributed sources of the gas formation as a result of decomposition of garbage, organic waste and industrial activity. “Large amounts of garbage left in the open at dumping sites and the presence of unclean public toilets are some of the reasons for the increase in ammonia levels in parts of the city, especially Chembur,” said Rakesh Kumar, director, National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI).
However, Kumar said that the industrial activity in Chembur was being regulated through proper air quality monitoring. “The situation is much better than what it was a decade ago, but the current problem is arising majorly due to open drains, rotting garbage and untreated sewage,” he said.
Researchers from the System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) that monitors air quality said that ammonia is a toxic pollutant which, if inhaled in large quantities, can cause health hazards.
“The state pollution control board needs to immediately give guidelines to the civic body and local industries to control the situation and carry out proper effluent treatment before discharging waste,” said Gufran Beig, project director, SAFAR.
Inhaling ammonia can be hazardous to your health
Doctors said ammonia is one of the primary particles responsible for a number of lung-related diseases.
Dr Kaushik Desai, pulmonologist, Shivam Clinic, who has been practicing for the past 31 years in Chembur, said, “I see at least one case of lung-related ailments a day. When one inhales ammonia, the internal lining of the alveoli of the lungs get inflamed and they break, which leads to mild bleeding. The pollution problem is decreasing people’s lifespan by minimum of 10 years. The only way it can be stopped is if the industries are pushed out.”
“The figures are quite high even if they are just for a few months, the impact of the pollutant remains for the rest of the year. Ammonia in the air causes severe bronchitis. People with existing lung disease such as asthma can get breathless with aggravated symptoms and severe complications with the respiratory tract,” said Dr Sanjeev Mehta, pulmonologist, Lilavati Hospital in Bandra.