The Rising Concern Of Air Pollution

Air pollution is responsible for many health problems in urban areas. Of late, the air pollution status in Delhi has undergone many changes in terms of the levels of pollutants and the control measures taken to reduce them. 


Pollution refers to the contamination of the earth's environment with materials that interfere with human health, quality of life, or the natural functioning of the ecosystems. The major forms of pollution include water pollution, air pollution, noise pollution, and soil contamination. Other less-recognized forms include thermal pollution and radioactive hazards. It is difficult to hold any one particular form responsible for maximum risk to health; however, air and water pollution appear to be responsible for a large proportion of pollution-related health problems.


The urban air database released by the World Health Organization in September 2011 reported that Delhi has exceeded the maximum PM10 limit by almost 10-times at 198 μg/m3. Vehicular emissions and industrial activities were found to be associated with indoor as well as outdoor air pollution in Delhi. Studies on air pollution and mortality from Delhi found that all-natural-cause mortality and morbidity increased with increased air pollution. 


Long-term exposure to outdoor and household air pollution contributed to over 1.67 million annual deaths from stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung diseases, and neonatal diseases in India in 2019, according to the State of Global Air 2020 by the U.S.-based Health Effects Institute. Overall, air pollution was now the largest risk factor for death among all health risks, the report noted.


Outdoor and household particulate matter pollution also contributed to the deaths of more than 1,16,000 Indian infants in their first month of life last year. More than half of these deaths were associated with outdoor PM2.5 and others were linked to the use of solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking.


For the youngest infants, most deaths were related to complications from low birth weight and preterm birth.

India faced the highest per capita pollution exposure -- or 83.2 μg/m3  in the world, followed by Nepal at 81.3 μg/m3 and Niger at 80.1, according to the report which sources its data publicly available sources. Countries with the least population are below 8 micrograms (μg)  per cubic meter.

Although the Government has claimed that average pollution levels in India are declining over the past three years but these have been marginal, particularly in the Indo- Gangetic plains which see extremely high particulate matter pollution especially during winter. 


After a decline in pollution due to Nationwide Lockdown in late March and the months-long process of reopening, pollution levels are again rising and air quality was dipped to the 'very poor' category in several cities. However,  with the onset of winter, air pollution levels in India, especially in the northern region, have started to rise again due to a number of factors such as calm winds and stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.


Is there any link between Air pollution and Covid-19?

Covid 19, a disease for which people with heart and lung disease are particularly at risk of infection and death, has claimed more than 140,000 lives in India. Although the full links between air pollution and Covid-19 are not yet known, there is clear evidence linking air pollution and increased heart and lung disease, creating growing concern that exposures to high levels of air pollution during winter months in South Asian countries and East Asia could worsen the effects of Covid-19.   



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