New WHO Air Quality Index Finds India Polluted for Most of the Year

By: Khushpreet Kaur
24 Sep 2021 11:26:38 PM CSMC, Chitkara University, Punjab

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released new stricter air quality guidelines lowering the recommended levels of pollutants that are considered to be safe for human health, The Indian Express reported. These guidelines were revised 15 years after being published for the first time in 2005.


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According to WHO estimates, every year, nearly seven million deaths are associated with diseases related to air pollution. According to a CNBC dispatch, "Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats to human health, alongside climate change. Improving air quality can enhance climate change mitigation efforts while reducing emissions that will, in turn, improve air quality." 


Earlier PM2.5 concentration of 25 micrograms per cubic meter in 24 hours was considered safe, but according to new guidelines, a concentration of over 15 micrograms is harmful. The limits for the other pollutants have also been lowered, stated the CNBC report. Also, compared to the WHO’s guidelines, Indian guidelines are more permissive, but still, these guidelines are hardly fulfilled.


Pollutant Matters (PM) are small suspended matters in the air that can be hazardous. Some of the common PMs are PM2.5, PM10, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and carbon monoxide. 


According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to PM2.5 and PM10 pollution can cause heart and lung diseases, heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, asthma, decreased lung function, and increased respiratory symptoms. Exposure can lead to premature deaths.


India is considered the third most polluted country in the world. These new guidelines mean that almost the entirety of India would be considered a polluted zone for most of the year. 


A large number of India’s population is already living in areas where pollution levels are higher than WHO’s 2005 guidelines. Experts suggest that the already pandemic-hit tourism sector will take the hit of this fall. 

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