Monday, November 14, 2016

Compare Air Pollution in New Delhi to Your Home

from US Embassy Feed
Air pollution in New Delhi has been in the news. According to reports from the Times of India, air pollution levels hit 999 micrograms of small particulates per cubic meter in some areas of the capital. For comparison in 2013 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the reduction in the fine particle pollution, PM2.5, average annual allowed level to 12 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) or an AQI of 39. The 24-hr standard was recently revised to a level of 35 ug/m3 (an AQI of 99) and in truth not all cities in the United States currently meet that standard.

Last week the New Delhi smog was reported to be its worst in 17 years. The Government closed all of the city's more than 5,000 schools for three days to minimize the risk for children. In a city of over 17 million that meant that an estimated 4.41 million children missed three days of school according to the United Nations Children's Fund. The Air Quality index as measured by the PM2.5 monitoring station atop the US Embassy in New Delhi reported particulate pollution levels had fallen first to 400 then to 258 over the weekend, but the air quality is forecast to worsen again later this week.
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PM2.5 particles are a major contributing factor to lung disease. A study of children in Southern California showed lung damage associated with long-term particulate exposure, and a multi-city study found decreased lung function in children associated with long term particulate exposure. The United States particulate levels are a small fraction of the levels in the worst areas of the world-Beijing, New Delhi, Santiago (Chile), Mexico City, Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia), Cairo (Egypt), Chongqing (China), Guangzhou (China), Hong Kong, and Kabul (Afghanistan).

PM2.5 particles can be either directly emitted or formed via atmospheric reactions. Primary particles are emitted from cars, trucks, and heavy equipment, as well as residential wood combustion, forest fires, and agricultural waste burning as is still common in India. The main components of particulate pollution formed when pollutants like NOx and SO2 react in the atmosphere to form particles. These particles are emitted from coal fired power plants and other combustion engines. The increase in automobiles and coal fired power plants in both India and China has exacerbated this problem in India, China and other areas of the world because particulates can travel great distances.

So, as the Indians and Chinese spew more and more pollutants and particulates which are most concentrated in their own cities but are worsening in many cities around the world. As the Indians and Chinese expand their air pollution, the United States continues to reduce ours. If you want to take a look at real time particulate pollution levels you can see what the monitors nearest your home are reporting. Long Park in Haymarket Virginia was reporting an AQI level of 2 as I was finishing this article. Long Park is about 3 miles from my house down route 15.

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