India is again heading to that time of the year when the air quality becomes toxic. The whole of north India gets exposed to hazardous pollutants, which rise significantly post Diwali. Firecrackers, stubble burning, and low wind speed deteriorate air quality. The air pollution index in most Indian cities remains impacted for the most time of the year due to increasing vehicular traffic and industrial establishments. However, the concern rises significantly during the autumn and winter months.
The level of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 and PM 10, which are hazardous for human health, also increases. The PM 2.5 includes fine particles that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter and PM 10 has coarser particles with a diameter of 10 microns. While some of these particles occur naturally due to dust storms and forest fires, the others are a result of human industrial processes. Some of these fragments are small enough to enter inside the lungs or even cross the bloodstream in some cases.
The condition worsens to the extent that a thick blanket of smog envelopes the National Capital Region and the neighboring areas. Odd and even rule gets applied for vehicles, industrial and construction work gets paused, and even the movement of commercial vehicles gets restricted. These measures become imminent because along with PM 2.5 and PM 10, there is an increase of iron, lead, nickel, sulphur dioxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, copper and beryllium levels in the air.
Inhaling these particles and gases is quite harmful to human beings. According to the study, State of Global Air 2019, the life of a South Asian child growing up in the existing levels of pollution shortens by two years and six months. Air pollution is also a giant killer in the Indian sub-continent. According to a global study published in the Indian dailies, air pollution led to 1.2 million deaths in the country in 2017. More people have died due to air pollution as against smoking. It is the third-highest cause of death among people. In fact, the long-term exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution led to nearly 5 million deaths by triggering health concerns like heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer and chronic lung disease. Air pollution is also emerging as a significant factor behind rising cases of type 2 diabetes.
Along with outdoor pollution, indoor pollution has also been on the rise in India. To prevent household air pollution, the government has also launched various initiatives. With the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, National Clean Air Programme and accelerated Bharat Stage VI clean vehicle standards, the government is trying to address the pollution concerns. Such measures at the level of authorities and additional efforts by the citizens are much needed. Everyone has the right to breathe healthy air, and a collaborative effort can go a long way in reversing these alarming numbers and concerns.