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'Death in Every Breath': Delhi, Gurugram air quality shows presence of alarming levels of heavy metals

The CPCB slapped Rs 1 crore fine each on three civic bodies of the city over open burning, dumping of waste, illegal running of plastic industries in non-conforming residential areas.

Edited by: India TV News Desk, New Delhi [ Updated: January 18, 2019 0:00 IST ]

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The air quality of Delhi and Gurugram has showed presence of alarming levels of toxic heavy metals in the last two months, according to a new report 'Death in Every Breath' released on Thursday. The report has been released by NGO Lung Care Foundation, which analysed results of seven air quality tests taken in New Delhi and Gurugram. 

According to the report, the PM2.5 levels - fine particulate matters in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers - in all the seven tests were above statutory limits. The PM2.5 levels ranged from 90.3 ug/m3 to 563.5 ug/m3 and were between 1.5 and 9.4 times higher than standards prescribed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. 

The levels of manganese in five of the seven tests exceed the US EPA Reference Concentration for exposure to manganese (0.05 ug/m3) and the World Health Organisation annual health-based guidelines value of 0.15 ug/m3. There are no standards in India for manganese in ambient air, the report said.

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"Levels of lead in six of the seven tests exceed the US EPA 3-month average for exposure to lead (0.15 ug/m3) and in two tests exceeds the Indian NAAQS Annual and the WHO annual health-based guidelines value of 0.05 ug/m3," it said.

Nickel levels in all the tests exceed the WHO annual health-based guidelines value of 0.0025 ug/m3, which is based on the risk of cancer associated with long-term exposure to nickel.

"Manganese, lead and nickel are neurotoxins that damage the brain. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead. Exposures to even low levels of lead early in life have been linked to effects on IQ, learning, memory and behaviour. It is a matter of very serious concern that such high levels of these toxic metals are found in the air that our children breathe," said Arvind Kumar of Lung Care Foundation.

"There is an urgent need for the policy makers to bring the focus back on the people and the health problems they are reporting to understand the impact of air pollution and its severity. People are the best monitors and they have been reporting severe health impacts already," Kumar added.

The report also found high levels of barium from Diwali fireworks.

"The barium level in the air quality test a day before Diwali is 21.5 μg/m3, on the day of Diwali the test has barium level of 5.8 μg/m3, and a day after Diwali, the barium level in the test is 2.4 μg/m3," the report said. 

CBCB slaps Rs 1 crore fine each on civic bodies of Delhi

With the air quality deteriorating in the national capital, the CPCB has slapped Rs 1 crore fine each on three civic bodies of Delhi.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board data, the overall air quality index (AQI) in the city was 443, which falls in the severe category.

The CPCB has asked Reliance Industries why a fine of Rs 1 crore should not be slapped on it and prosecution not initiated over non compliance of the National Green Tribunal order on installation of anti-pollution "vapour recovery" systems (VRS) at fuel stations.

The CPCB slapped Rs 1 crore fine each on three civic bodies of the city over open burning, dumping of waste, illegal running of plastic industries in non-conforming residential areas.

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In three separate notices to the East Delhi Municipal Corporation, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation and the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, the CPCB said it was observed that open dumping of garbage contributes over 13 per cent and open garbage burning over 11 per cent in the air pollution incidents in the Delhi-NCR region.

Air samples taken from Delhi and Gurgaon in the last two months showed presence of alarming levels of toxic heavy metals, according to a report titled 'Death in Every Breath' released by NGO Lung Care Foundation.

It analysed results of seven samples taken from New Delhi and Gurgaon.

The air quality was 'severe' till Sunday but increased wind speed of 20 km/hr significantly improved it to the poor category on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the air quality again deteriorated as the wind speed dropped and was recorded in the very poor category.

On Thursday, as many as 31 areas recorded 'severe' air quality and two 'very poor' air quality, the CPCB said.

In the National Capital Region, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Noida and Greater Noida recorded 'severe' air quality while Gurgaon recorded 'very poor' air quality, it said.

The overall PM2.5 level — fine particulate matters in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers — in Delhi was 345, while the PM10 level was 513, it said.

The Centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting (SAFAR) said air quality index over Delhi touched the "severe" category.

"Both the components of particulate matters viz. PM2.5 and PM10 touched severe level. In all probability, the AQI is expected to go up further within severe range until Friday," the SAFAR said.

Meanwhile, the CPCB also questioned Reliance Industries of why fines should fine not be slapped on it over non-compliance of the NGT order.

In a letter dated January 8, the CPCB said Reliance Industries informed it that installation of VRS stage II at retail outlets selling less than 300 KL/month has been completed but no compliance status was submitted with respect to installation of VRS IB at these stations.

Vapour recovery system 1B is used to control the vapour released during the offloading of fuel at distribution centres. Vapour recovery system Stage 2 is used to control the vapour while the fuel is transferred from holding tanks to vehicles.

"The above status indicates non-compliance of the NGT order and therefore, in view of above, a notice is hereby served to show cause as to why environment compensation of Rs 1 crore shall not be levied and prosecution not initiated against Reliance Industries for non-compliance of the order," CPCB chairperson S P S Parihar said in the notice.

In three separate notices to the East Delhi Municipal Corporation, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation and the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, the CPCB said an environmental compensation of Rs 1 crore each has to be paid by the three bodies by January 31, failing which prosecution will be initiated in accordance with law.

The CPCB also slapped fines on the Delhi Cantonment Board and the New Delhi Municipal Corporation of Rs 1 lakh over dumping of waste openly.

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