Post winter, the city has been breathing air that is more toxic than Delhi’s — ranked one of the most polluted cities in the world, according to a World Health Organisation.
While Delhi and Pune did not have a single high pollution day between February and March, pollution levels for particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) — microscopic pollutants in the air that can easily enter our lungs and cause health ailments — were much above permissible limits in Mumbai, found a study by the System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR).
SAFAR compared air quality levels of three cities from February to March 13 and found Mumbai to have 20% 'very poor' air days, while Delhi and Pune had none.
What’s worse, while Delhi and Pune had 40% and 47% ‘satisfactory’ air quality days, Mumbai only had 13%.
“Between February and March, Mumbai had more ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ days and less ‘satisfactory’ air days. Delhi and Pune did not have any ‘very poor’ days with cleaner air than Mumbai,” read the conclusion of the study.
Researchers from SAFAR said there was an improvement in Delhi’s air pollution during the two months; high air pollution in Mumbai was a matter of concern.
“A city like Delhi is landlocked and is more prone to pollutants getting trapped closer to the surface because weather conditions are not favourable, but high speed winds and intermittent rain helped clean the city’s air. However, Mumbai has the advantage of sea breeze, but that did not play a crucial role in dispersing pollutants as wind speed was less during most days between February and March,” said Gufran Beig, director, SAFAR. “Factors such as rise in vehicles and increasing construction work are further adding to Mumbai’s pollution woes.”
He said Pune, on the other hand, does not have high vehicular population and weather conditions lead to ‘satisfactory’ air quality.
HT reported on Tuesday that between Sunday night and Monday morning, Mumbai recorded an air quality index (AQI) of 315 (very poor) due to low temperatures, wind speed with an additional source of thick black smoke emanating from the Holika Dahan or bonfires. On Tuesday however, AQI levels dropped to 202 (poor) and is expected to 214 (poor) on Wednesday.
Doctors said that particulate matter is one of the major issues that reduce the defence mechanism of the lungs to protect it from microorganisms. “Cilia [hair-like projections] move the microorganisms and harmful particles up and out of the airways to protect the lungs. However, they are killed owing to particulate matter. Once this defence mechanism collapses, the particles enter the lungs and result in multiple pulmonary issues. Chronic bronchitis being the most common disorder, respiratory tract disorders, tuberculosis, cardiac issues and other chronic diseases," said Dr Rajendra Nanaware, senior pulmonologist and medical superintendent, Sewri TB Hospital.