After Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a national air quality index (AQI) on Monday, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) said the air quality for Mumbai will be calculated from the two pollution monitoring stations in Sion and Bandra.
The real-time AQI of 10 cities will be available on the website of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
As of now, only data from monitoring stations for New Delhi is available on the website.
The composite AQI will take into account six pollution parameters — particulate matter (PM) 2.5, PM10, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide.
“The protocol for calculating the air quality index is ready. However, MPCB officials will be meeting in Delhi on Wednesday or Thursday to decide the roadmap for starting the project. The AQI will be calculated at the existing MPCB stations at Sion and Bandra,” said SC Kollur, scientific officer, MPCB.
According to officials, weightage will be given to different pollutants and the average number will reveal whether the index falls under the six categories— good, satisfactory, moderate, poor, very poor and severe.
Air quality is classified ‘good’ if the pollution levels are at least 50% below the regulatory standards.
Experts said the launch of the AQI was a significant development, as it will give the public access to data that is easy to understand.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, in-charge of clean air and sustainable cities programme, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said, “For the first time, the government has taken an initiative to inform people about the daily air quality in a simple manner. It is cautioning them about possible health consequences. This can build public awareness and garner support for decisions needed to get cleaner air.”
Until now, the air quality monitoring stations in the city would monitor the respiratory suspended particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen and sulphur dioxide.
Philip Earis, a scientist and resident of Bandra, said the issue was important for the city. “Mumbai’s polluted air significantly reduces life expectancy. The AQI is a standardised way to measure air quality consistently. These new readings will allow Mumbai to track changes over time, and alert citizens when pollution becomes especially hazardous,” he said.
The United States Embassy and Consulates General in India, too, established an air quality-monitoring programme in February.
TROUBLE IN THE AIR
Dr Sanjeev Mehta, pulmonologist (chest specialist) at Lilavati Hospital, Bandra (West) warns against the health effects of pollutants. “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 leading to breathlessness and even asthma, bronchitis or lung damage.”
EFFECT ON HEALTH
* Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath
* Aggravated asthma
* Lung damage (including decreased lung function)
* Avoid traveling during peak traffic hours
* Avoid using insect/mosquito repellents
* Switch off cars when not in use (even at traffic lights)
* Stop burning of wastes, leaves, paper and plastic
* Keep and use masks whenever excess dust is in the air
* Keep doors and windows closed if construction work is taking place nearby
* Carry out lung function tests on a regular basis
AIR QUALITY INDEX AND HEALTH CONCERNS
Weightage will be given to all different pollutants in the atmosphere and the average number will reveal whether the index falls under any of the six categories. The six bands are colour coded to visually express the level of severity.
Source: Central Pollution Control Board website (CPCB)
WHAT IS MAKING THE AIR TOXIC
Respiratory particulate matter (RSPM): Made up of dust, soot or smoke particles. Increase in RSPM levels or particulate matter is a common cause for bronchitis, lung cancer and cardiopulmonary disorders. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, 100 micrograms/metre cube (ug/m3) is the standard, safe limit of RSPM levels
Particulate matter (PM2.5): These are the smallest sized pollutants in the air that easily enter our lungs. PM2.5 are particles less than 2.5 micrometre in diameter — smaller than a single strand of hair, which is about 70 micrometre in diameter They are a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.
PM10: These are particles less than 10 micrometre in diameter and can generally be stopped by the human body's natural filtration. PM10 (big) particles can stay in the air for minutes or hours while PM2.5 (small) particles can stay in the air for days or weeks.
Ozone: The ozone at the ground level is one of the primary components of smog, with the highest levels seen during summers. They are released from vehicular exhaust and industrial emission.
Nitrogen oxide: High presence of this gas in the air, caused mostly by vehicular pollution, can affect respiratory organs and lead to bronchitis and lung fibrosis. It is the main source of aerosols, which in turn form an important part of PM2.5.
Carbon monoxide: One of the most hazardous emissions from combustion engines, it by reacts with the haemoglobin in the blood, reducing its capacity to carry oxygen.
Sulphur dioxide: It is produced from the burning of fossil fuels (coal and oil) and the smelting of mineral ores that contain sulphur. When combined with water vapour, it forms sulphuric acid, a primary component in acid rain. Corrosive to the skin and eyes, it can also lead to death if inhaled
Source: AirNow Website