You can’t breathe easy | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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You can’t breathe easy

The air that you breathe is dirtier than last year. The civic Environment Status Report (ESR) 2009-10 says that the Air Pollution Index — calculated from the levels of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and suspended particulate matter (SPM) matter in the air — ranges from 17 per cent to 221 per cent across the city. Last year, the range was 11 per cent to 187 per cent.

mumbai Updated: Sep 09, 2010 01:57 IST
Bhavika Jain

The air that you breathe is dirtier than last year. The civic Environment Status Report (ESR) 2009-10 says that the Air Pollution Index — calculated from the levels of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and suspended particulate matter (SPM) matter in the air — ranges from 17 per cent to 221 per cent across the city. Last year, the range was 11 per cent to 187 per cent.

This means that the chance of you contracting a respiratory ailment has risen.

The pollution levels were the highest in the eastern suburbs, with the Bhandup-Chembur belt being the most polluted. On Wednesday, Hindustan Times had reported how the levels of carcinogenic substances — cancer-causing pollutants — have risen drastically since last year.

Experts blamed rapid construction activity and industrialisation. A Maharashtra Pollution Control Board official said on condition of anonymity: “The rise in health problems was expected because of the increase in pollution.” He said the Central Pollution Control Board is now tweaking guidelines to make it more binding on industries to treat effluents before they are disposed of.

To derive a relationship between air quality and health, the Environmental Pollution Research Centre’s Health Survey Unit affiliated to KEM hospital studied three localities in the eastern suburbs.

Conducted between April 2009 and March 2010, the study’s findings are worrying.

Tests in Chheda Nagar and Tilak Nagar, close to the Deonar dumping ground, found that 8.8 per cent of the of 147 residents surveyed had lung function defects.

The defects were of two types — obstructive and restrictive. This leads to asthma and weakening of lung muscles, which is caused by SPM, lead particles and burning of organic matter, said the ESR.

About 31 per cent of the respondents complained of frequent wheezing, sneezing and eye irritation.

“The findings only confirm what we have been telling the civic body about deteriorating health standards due to the toxins emitted from the dump and the refineries nearby,” said Gaurang Mehta, a resident of Prem Jyot society in Tilak Nagar.

Another survey was carried out in Kurla after citizens complained about the ill effects of wide-scale construction. A 321-question survey answered by 238 people showed that 15 per cent had respiratory morbidity — a clogging of the respiratory tract, leading to difficulty in breathing.

“Preliminary observations show that the percentage of respiratory morbidity is high. The source of pollution should be identified [as soon as possible],” said the report.

A third survey conducted at the chlorination plant at Pise Panjrapol showed that 44 workers — 10 per cent of the staff — had lung function defects.