CHENNAI: For the fourth year in a row, the air quality in Chennai was found to have exceeded permissible levels of PM 2.5 by 1.1 to 3.8 times posing a serious health risk, reveals a study conducted by advocacy group Healthy Energy Initiative (India).
For the study, researchers collected 24-hour samples from 20 locations across Chennai in February-March 2021 and the analysis showed the air quality was 'poor' to 'unhealthy' when compared to National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for PM2.5 of 60 µg/m3, a press release said.
Among the samples taken, Thirusulam (near airport), Parry’s Corner and Vyasarpadi (near fishing harbour) locations had levels of PM 2.5 between 228 and 176 µg/m3 which is categorised as 'very unhealthy'. People with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should avoid all physical activity, said the study.
This study analysed the 24-hour air samples of heavy metals in addition to PM 2.5. Locations sampled for the study included neighbourhoods that are industrial, commercial and residential in nature. The results of the study indicate that there is a need for the Chennai Corporation and other urban local bodies to develop a robust local level air quality monitoring and plan to control air pollution and protect public health, the release said.
Thiruvottiyur, Kasimedu (near harbour), Thoraipakkam (near dump-yard), Kuruvimedu (near Vallur Thermal Power plant’s coal ash pond), Sholinganallur (near OMR highway), Velachery, Nochikuppam, Kodungaiyur (near dump-yard), Minjur, Urnamedu, Seppakkam (near NCTPS’ coal ash pond), Sriperumbudur,T Nagar, Athipattu, Kattukuppam, Ambattur had levels of PM 2.5 between 128 and 59 µg/m3, which would be considered unhealthy.
“People living around these sampling locations seem to have lost their right to clean air. Despite the COVID pandemic, every single breath of polluted air taken by people in these regions has an added danger in lowering their lung capacity and eventually reducing their life expectancy. This can in turn result in increased hospital admission, emergency visits and fatalities which can be identified only through a health assessment in areas concerned,” said Gajapriya, an air pollution researcher with Healthy Energy Initiative (India).
The authors also reveal that the sampling results indicate lapses on the part of regulatory agencies to control emissions from the sources. From the samples taken around the city, it was found that the presence of silica, manganese and nickel was beyond the annual average level of exposure. Citizens living in the 19 locations where levels of silica were high are at risk of chronic lung problems and sometimes serious or fatal illnesses that can be irreversible.
Manganese is a known neurotoxin that affects the neurobehavioral functions and prolonged exposure can cause permanent brain damage of the person exposed. Manganese exceeded safe limits in 12 sampling
locations. Nickel, which is a potent carcinogen, can also affect the respiratory and immune systems in the body, the study report says.
Vishvaja Sambath, air pollution researcher at Healthy Energy Initiative (India), said, “Air pollution is an invisible killer which should be tackled on a war footing. Regulative protocols with guiding
principles, informing the public on impacts along with decision-makers support must be taken to streamline this issue concerning public health.”