Mumbai, every breath you take hurts your lungs: Survey reveals

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Feb 21, 2015 20:53 IST

While a World Health Organization (WHO) study recently judged Delhi the most polluted city in the world, Mumbai is not far behind.

This means the air you breathe in makes you susceptible to a variety of respiratory ailments, including lung diseases, asthma and bronchitis, say doctors.

A recent study by the United States Embassy and Consulates’ Air Quality Monitor has ranked Mumbai under the ‘unhealthy’ Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI is determined by the presence of five pollutants in the air you breathe – Respirable Particulate Matter (RSPM), ground-level ozone, sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Mumbai’s AQI has been calculated to be 157, which indicates, ‘increased aggravation of heart and lung disease and increased respiratory effects in general population’, according to the study.

The US Consulate study also says that people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion in such an atmosphere, or expose themselves to health risks. Delhi’s AQI, on the other hand, was calculated at 197, the highest in the world.

Other busy cities across the world scored much better, with London recording an AQI of 12 and New York 50, both of which fall under the air quality standards of low.

The study released on Friday confirms what an earlier report by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) had found. The report, released in 2013-14, stated people living in Mumbai were breathing polluted air, falling under the category of “poor to severe”.

State pollution control board officials say the city’s air quality is monitored regularly.

“We monitor the air quality at our Sion and Bandra stations on a daily basis. It is done using ambient monitoring instruments and high volume samplers (HVS), which calculate specific pollutants in the air,” said Anil Mokashi, statistician, MPCB.

Doctors said the pollutant levels are worryingly high.

“Sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and carbon dioxide are irritants to the airway, depending on the size of RSPM and where they deposit themselves in the lung. They can cause inflammation and definitely decrease the lung capacity,” said Dr Sanjeev Mehta, pulmonologist (chest specialist) at Lilavati Hospital.

Of the three pollutants, RSPM and oxides of nitrogen are the major causes of pollution in Mumbai. Dr Mehta said major lifestyle changes are needed to keep yourself safe from the illeffects of pollution.

“The best thing to do would be to avoid travelling during peak traffic hours, avoid using insect/mosquito repellents and stop burning wastes,” he said.

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