CHENNAI : The quality of air in all 15 locations sampled from across the city between May and July was ‘unhealthy’, according to a results of a study released by Healthy Energy Initiative and Doctors for Clean Air-Tamil Nadu, on Saturday. The PM 2.5 levels in the worst affected areas was nearly three times the national standard of 60 ug/m3. The samples which were taken in summer show that the current pollution crisis is neither an isolated nor a seasonal incident. The study analysed 24-hour air samples for PM 2.5 and a host of heavy metals.
According to the study, densely populated areas of North Chennai were worst affected by dust and heavy metal pollution, owing to the high concentration of industries, oil refinery and thermal power plants in neighbourhoods including Manali and Ennore.Four out of the five highest PM 2.5 levels too were recorded there with Kuruvimedu, near NTPC Vallur coal ash pond registering the highest at 187g/m3. T Nagar, Chennai’s only Smart City neighbourhood, was also in the top 5 polluted neighbourhoods with 167g/m3.
Apart from PM 2.5, elevated levels of heavy metals such as manganese, nickel, lead and crystalline silica were found. Manganese and lead are neurotoxins while crystalline silica is a respiratory irritant and can cause silicosis, a fatal disease generally known to only affect people exposed at workplaces.
“Studies have shown a significant association between exposure to fine particles and premature mortality. Other significant effects include aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, lung disease, decreased lung function, asthma and heart attacks,” said Dr Hissamudin Papa, founder and director of HUMA Hospitals in Chennai.
Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change, in 2018 launched ‘National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)’ to curb air pollution. Across India, 122 cities have been identified as ‘Non-Attainment Cities’. Under the NCAP, these cities aim to reduce pollution levels by 20-30%. “Despite Chennai’s perennial pollution problem, the city has not been included in the NCAP, which will force it to reduce pollution to acceptable levels,” said a statement issued by Doctors For Clean Air, on Saturday.Chennai is unlike any other city as it is the only city with three mega sea ports within the metropolitan area and the associated movement of heavy diesel vehicles, 3300 MW coal thermal plants.