The World Health Organisation (WHO) released its air quality guidelines on Wednesday, in which the levels of pollutants which is considered safe for human health, is less than before.
The recommended levels of the six common air pollutants, namely, PM2.5, PM10, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and carbon monoxide, have all been lowered than the levels suggested by WHO’s 2005 norms.
WHO has reduced the PM2.5 concentration from 25 micrograms per cubic metre in 24 hours, to 15 micrograms per cubic metre in a day.
WHO bought out the new guidelines after five years of systematic research, and after analysing the results of more than 500 studies, which suggest that air pollution is more damaging to human health in recent times than it was before. According to WHO, diseases caused due to air pollution accounts for more than seven million deaths revery year.
By taking the new guidelines into consideration, nearly the entire India will be considered as a polluted zone for most of the year. Not only India, WHO admits that more than 90 percent of the world population lived in the places which didn’t meet the 2005 standards, and with the guidelines lowering the level of pollutants, the number is likely to go up.
According to a Greenpeace analysis, all the cities among the 100 most populous cities in the world, exceeded the pollutant level set by WHO. With the pollution levels being several times higher than the WHO recommended levels, South Asia, especially India, continues to remain one of the most polluted areas in the world.
According to a Greenpeace study, Delhi’s pollution levels were 17 times higher than WHO’s recommended levels, Kolkata’s levels were more than nine times higher than the WHO levels, Mumbai’s levels were eight times higher than the WHO levels, and Chennai’s levels were more than five time higher. Experts have said that more than 95 percent of India’s population live in areas, where the pollutants levels were more than the WHO recommended levels.
WHO said that 80 percent of the deaths now attributed to PM2.5 exposure could be avoided, if countries are able to attain the new air quality standards. It also said that even achieving the 2005 standards would result in avoiding 48 percent of these deaths.
IIT-Kanpur professor S.N. Tripathi, who is also a member of the Steering Committee of National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), told PTI that air pollution is a severe health crisis and the World Health Organization’s revised guidelines bring the issue under focus.
“There is a body of scientific evidence to prove that air pollution is leading to severe health impacts and 90 percent of the entire global population is breathing polluted air,” professor Tripathi said. The professor added that there are no two ways about the need for revising India’s air quality standards to make them more stringent.