• AQI dips to ‘very poor’ level, doctors sound health alarm
    Times of India, 05 December 2020
  • Kolkata: The city’s air quality has started degrading fast with steady reduction of ambient temperature and vertical wind speed. Air quality index (AQI) at air quality monitoring stations across the city breached the 300-mark to enter the ‘very poor’ category, with Rabindra Bharati University station even breaching the 400-mark to make way into the ‘severe’ category. Health experts alerted that prolonged exposure to such air will inevitably cause respiratory illness.

    Significantly, the milder wintry sun rays could not help dispersing the finer pollutants in the ambient air up in the atmosphere. As the day progressed, the air got foul with AQI curve taking a sharp upswing. Unless there is a magical meteorological change, the air quality is likely to decline further, said a West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) scientist.

    “The reading at Rabindra Bharati station is a major cause of concern for us. Waste burning at Pramod Nagar landfill site might be the reason. We have deployed two fire tenders to douse the flames. To stop road dust re-suspension, we have engaged sprinklers to spray water laced with chemicals. We may need an intense study to find out the source,” said WBPCB chairman Kalyan Rudra.

    Rabindra Sarobar, the lung of south Kolkata, which represents the city’s best possible air quality, also turned poor, bordering on very poor air. “In fact, it is dangerous to have morning walk in the lake right now. We will end up breathing in a lot of finer pollutants which will go into our blood stream to cause disaster,” said environment activist Somendranath Ghosh.

    The city’s air pollution is driven by PM2.5. These are ultrafine particles of diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair and can travel straight into the blood stream. The noxious chemicals riding piggyback on these particles play havoc with human lives.

    “Whether it is poorer air quality or not, we have started receiving a lot of patients with lung issues. With the further degradation of air quality, there will be more and more cases of bronchitis, COPD, asthma,” said Dr Sushmita Roychowdhury, pulmonologist with Apollo Gleneagles Hospital. Senior pulmonologist Dr Arup Haldar also echoed him. “The jump in number of patients with breathing distress is quite significant. During the complete lockdown, the number reduced drastically.”

    Haldar advised against any outdoor physical activities by elderly people under such circumstances.
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