Beware, the air you breathe this Diwali

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Nov 09, 2015 15:52 IST
For the fourth consecutive day, the city recorded ‘poor’ air quality on Sunday, with the air quality index (AQI) at 215, the highest this year. Prior to this, Mumbai had recorded 213 on Saturday. (File photo)

The air you breathe will be heavily polluted this Diwali, a first-time air quality forecast for the city during the festive season revealed.

Four areas — Chembur, Bhandup, Mazgaon and Nerul —have been identified as ‘high-risk locations’ on November 11, while Borivli and Colaba could boast of “cleaner” air. Under the study, particulate matter (PM2.5) was found to be the main pollutant. It is made of ultrafine particles that can easily enter the lungs and the bloodstream. Excessive exposure can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular ailments.

The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) forecast an estimated air quality index of 203 — this indicates ‘poor’ air pollution levels — this Diwali, posing health risks to Mumbaiites and especially those predisposed to asthma and bronchitis.

Read more: Firecrackers create less noise now, finds report

“The current air quality levels are expected to increase as hot winds coming from the land are suspended over the city and are not being absorbed by the ocean. This is allowing the finer pollutant particles to dangle in the air. This, mixed with pollutants released by firecrackers, will result in ‘poor’ air quality for Mumbai during Diwali,” said Gufran Beig, scientist at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune and project director, SAFAR.

Pollutants were monitored at 10 locations in Mumbai. “Pollutants are likely to be generated primarily from firecrackers as meteorological conditions are clear. Gaseous pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide released from crackers can pose a threat to people sensitive to air pollution,” said Neha S Parkhi, senior programme officer, SAFAR and IITM, Pune.

“PM2.5 is one of the smallest pollutants and when mixed with chemicals from firecrackers will penetrate deeper into the lungs and is extremely harmful for young children and senior citizens. Diseases like asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis [inflammation of lung tissue], chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchitis are all after-effects of these pollutants,” Dr Sanjeev Mehta, pulmonologist (chest specialist), Lilavati Hospital in Bandra.

SAFAR calculates location-wise AQI under a system jointly conceived and developed by IITM, BMC and IMD, Mumbai.

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