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New NGT directives include stay-at-home warnings for elderly & kids

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Looking to issue “immediate advisories” to the public by Thursday, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday ordered the Delhi government to identify “critically polluted areas.

Due to all Delhi areas “consistently” showing high pollution according to the Air Quality Index (AQI), the NGT bench issued a series of directives towards curbing the capital’s pollution.

The agencies which failed to submit their compliance reports were given a December 11 deadline. The tribunal also ordered all concerned departmental heads and the secretaries of the environment and health departments to be present on the day.

The bench which was headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar asked: “What are you doing about creating public awareness about critically polluted areas?”

Among the advisories issued by the bench, is a suggestion that children and elderly should not come out of their houses during “high pollution” hours.

The Environment Secretary of the Delhi government was directed by the NGT bench to meet the Member-Secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), along with the Director-General (Health Services) and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), on Wednesday to implement the plans properly.

It was later confirmed by government officials that due to the absence of CPCB representatives from CPCB and health services, no decisions could be taken.

The committee would be addressing Anand Vihar and ITO as they have been identified as critically polluted areas in Delhi.

The detailed order of NGT was not available at the time of going to press but Advocate Vardhaman Kaushik asked the government to look into pollution from “other sources” rather than just from vehicles, waste-burning or construction. His plea was heard by the NGT bench.

After Vardhaman identified diesel generators as a fourth major source of pollution, the NGT asked the DPCC to record details of such generators in Delhi and find out how many follow the emission protocols.

An investigation conducted by The Indian Express on the Delhi air quality through its ‘Death by Breath’ series had brought up several important issues to the fore. Taking these into account, the NGT, on April 7, banned from Delhi diesel vehicles older than 10 years and petrol vehicles older than 15 years.

The tribunal also ordered for the AQI to be kept under constant observation, along with ensuring a ban on construction waste dumping. Commercial vehicles which are not destined for Delhi would also be diverted. On this issue, the Haryana government informed that alternative routes via NH-71A and NH-71 were being showed to 6,000-7,000 diverted at Panipat.

The Centre may also order for a limit on the number of vehicles sold in the capital each year.

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Levels of Air Pollution Directly Linked to Oral Cancer: Study

A significant association was also observed for ozone levels below 28.69-30.97 parts per billion

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Air Pollution
Air pollution linked to high risk of oral cancer: Study. Pixabay

Higher levels of air pollution may be linked to a heightened risk of developing oral cancer, which includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, a study has found.

While mouth cancers have been associated with smoking, drinking, human papilloma virus, and the chewing of betel quid (“paan”), the study added to this list increased levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and to lesser extent, ozone.

“This study, with a large sample size, is the first to associate oral cancer with PM2.5… These findings add to the growing evidence on the adverse effects of PM2.5 on human health,” said researchers including Shou-Jen Lan, Professor at the Asia University, in Taiwan.

Exposure to heavy metals and emissions from petrochemical plants are also thought to be implicated in the development of the disease while PM2.5 is known to be harmful to respiratory and cardiovascular health.

Previously, high air pollution has been linked to a host of health problems, from an increased risk of dementia to asthma and even changes in the structure of the heart, with recent research suggesting there is no “safe level” of air pollution.

Air Pollution
Air Pollution. pixabay

For the new study, published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine, the team discovered the association by looking at air pollution data from 66 air quality monitoring stations in Taiwan, collected in 2009.

They combined this with data from the health records of more than 4,80,000 men aged 40 and over from 2012-13. In total, there were 11,617 cases of mouth cancer among the participants.

They found that men exposed to the highest levels of PM2.5s had an increased risk of mouth cancer.

Compared with men exposed to average annual PM2.5 levels of 26.74 micrograms (µg) per cubic metre (m3) of air, those exposed to concentrations of 40.37 µg/m3 or higher had 43 per cent greater odds of developing the disease.

Air Pollution.
Air pollution may also lead to changes in heart structure. Pixabay

A significant association was also observed for ozone levels below 28.69-30.97 parts per billion.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is responsible for an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide per year.

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Around 6,57,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed annually across the globe, with 3,30,000 of those patients dying, it said. (IANS)