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The clear blue skies over the national capital may go dark soon with dust and smoke as the stubble burning season nears. The satellite images by US space agency NASA have shown that crop residue burning has already started in several fields in Haryana and Punjab, according to media reports.
Punjab annually generates 20 million tonnes of paddy straw, which is normally set on fire to quickly clear the fields for the next crop, resulting in choking of the National Capital Region (NCR) in October and November, and causing major health effects.
The latest NASA satellite data shows that more than 200 farm fires have been recorded in the Majha region of Punjab since September 1, according to media reports. By September 29, the count of fires was 66 in Punjab and 23 in Haryana.
Air pollution in Delhi -2019Wikimedia Commons
During October and November, stubble burning usually contributes between 20 per cent to 70 per cent of Delhi's air pollution. Last year, a report from the Environment Ministry showed that the average contribution of stubble burning to Delhi's air pollution increased from 10 per cent in 2019 to over 15 per cent in 2020.
A study by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), estimates that crop residue burning releases 149.24 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), over 9 million tonnes of carbon monoxide (CO), 0.25 million tonnes of oxides of sulphur (SOX), 1.28 million tonnes of particulate matter, and 0.07 million tonnes of black carbon.
These directly contribute to environmental pollution: the heat from burning paddy straw penetrates 1 centimetre into the soil, increasing the temperature to 33.8 to 42.2 degree Celsius, which kills the bacterial and fungal populations critical for a fertile soil.
Moreover, air pollution is considered as the greatest environmental threat to health, and it disproportionately affects vulnerable populations: 91 per cent of deaths from ambient air pollution occur in low-income and middle-income countries.
Severe Air Pollution in New Delhi View by NASA's MISRWikimedia Commons
In India, 1,16,000 infant deaths in 2019 were attributable to air pollution, coal combustion was attributable for 1,00,000 deaths while ambient air pollution killed 16.7 lakh Indians, data released by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) showed.
Meanwhile, state governments of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi and even the Centre have taken multiple measures to incentivise farmers and prevent them from setting their fields on fire.
The Delhi government on Monday announced a set of 10 points formulated under its Winter Action Plan. It is also providing the Pusa- bio-decomposer, developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, free of cost to its farmers to prevent stubble burning.
The Punjab government is focusing on increasing use of paddy stubble in power generation. The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has asked the state's three thermal power plants to use paddy stubble as fuel to the extent of 10 per cent of total annual coal use.
Keywords: Air Pollution, North India, Winter Action Plan, Stubble burning, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Air Quality
By Himanshu Agarwal
There is no exaggeration in saying that Covid-19 has literally taken over our lives. Whether vaccinated or not, most of us are still living in the shadow of fear and anxiety. In fact with breakthrough infections showing up for some, even the vaccinated do not feel completely safe from a possible assault of the virus. The finding that the virus can be airborne is scary enough, research also shows that the transmission of the coronavirus is higher indoors than outdoors. This means that even if you don't step out and think that the virus can't get to you because you are ensconced safely and comfortably indoors, the bad news is that you can still get infected.
So, what should you do to keep the virus at bay while being confined indoors? While taking other precautions, keeping the indoor air sanitized, and constantly so, is one big answer to this.
Indoor aerosols a carrier of coronavirus
Unlike the earlier dominant belief that only respiratory droplets could spread infection, it has been established now that the tiny aerosols in the air can carry the coronavirus. These aerosols which are smaller and lighter than respiratory droplets can not only stay longer in the air but also carry the virus farther and for a longer time. The assumption that only by making contact with a contaminated surface one can get the virus, is no more valid.
Aerosols which are smaller and lighter than respiratory droplets can not only stay longer in the air but also carry the virus farther and for a longer time. | Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash
Several natural human activities carried out Indoors
We must remember that a lot of our daily natural and basic activities are conducted in our indoor spaces many of which involve active and oral expulsion of particles. From talking to shouting to sneezing and coughing to even singing, every one of these acts and others creates aerosols in the air which whether we like it not, continue to be exchanged with the others. In fact, many of these activities create more aerosols than even breathing. So, if we do not repeatedly ventilate the room and purify the air within, we can always be susceptible to be infected by others. Even if a house has no Covid patient, the risk of the virus being transmitted through the air from the neighbours or temporary staff can never be ruled out.
From talking to shouting to sneezing and coughing to even singing, every one of these acts and others creates aerosols in the air which whether we like it not, continue to be exchanged with the others. | Photo by Shazaf Zafar on Unsplash
Indoor air is naturally more unsafe than outdoor
As opposed to outdoor air which has natural circulation, unfortunately, indoor air doesn't have the same advantage. In India, the outdoor air itself isn't healthy enough for the human respiratory and health system due to the high amount of PM2.5, PM1.0 and other pollutants. So, without timely ventilation and purification, the chances of indoor air getting stale and unhygienic and thereby becoming more conducive to the 'designs' of coronavirus become very high. Add to this, there are recent studies that prove the possibility of PM2.5 particles being potential carriers of coronavirus, carrying them too much larger distances in the air. The high temperature and humidity which often characterizes our tropical climate add to the woes. (IANS/ MBI)
The outdoor air itself isn't healthy enough for the human respiratory and health system due to the high amount of PM2.5, PM1.0 and other pollutants. | Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash
Keywords: Pollution, pollutants, indoorm outdoor, air, covid, aerosol
GENEVA - In the first report of its kind, the World Meteorological Organization examines the close link between air quality and climate change and how measures stemming from COVID-19 influenced air quality patterns in 2020.
Government-imposed lockdown measures and travel restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 resulted in a marked improvement in air quality in many parts of the world. For example, the WMO said Southeast Asia experienced a 40% reduction in air particles in 2020.
However, the chief of the WMO's Atmospheric Environment Research Division, Oksana Tarasova, said the dramatic fall in emissions of key air pollutants was short-lived. She said city dwellers who reveled in seeing blue skies during periods of lockdown inactivity, had to again endure living under a pollution cloud once the cars started rolling again.
"As soon as mobility has increased, we are back to business as usual," Tarasova said. "So, those improvements were not very long lasting. And that is why we always stress that the extreme measures which were taken under lockdown is not a substitute for long term policies."
During this same period, the WMO said extreme weather events fueled by climate and environmental change triggered unprecedented sand and dust storms and wildfires that affected air quality.
The sun, muted by smoke, is visible in Portland Ore., Sept. 5, 2017. Dozens of fires across the Western U.S. and Canada blanketed the air with choking smoke from Oregon to Colorado, where health officials issued air quality alerts. Image source: voavoa
In parallel with the human-induced experiment on lockdowns and travel restrictions, Tarasova said those, and other natural phenomena also were controlling air quality around the world.
"There were several very strong events that happened in 2020 related to bio-mass burning where the smoke pollution from this burning bio-mass impacted air quality in large parts of Siberia, the United States," Tarasova said. "Early in the year, there was an episode in Australia that caused dramatic deterioration of air quality in those parts of the world."
The episode Tarasova refers is to Australian wildfires.
The WMO says changes in climate can influence pollution levels directly. It says the increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves may lead to greater accumulation of pollutants close to the surface. It notes the intense wildfires breaking out in many parts of the world and huge dust and sandstorms also worsen air pollution.
Smoke from wildfires is seen east of Hobart in the Australian Island state of Tasmania, Jan. 4, 2013.voa
The weather agency warns air pollution has significant impacts on human health. That is borne out by estimates from the latest Global Burden of Disease assessment. The data show global mortality from pollution nearly doubled from 2.3 million in 1990 to 4.5 million in 2019 — most due to particulate matter.
(This article is originally written by Lisa Schlein) (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Climate change, Air quality, Heatwaves, Pollution, Human Health
A team of researchers has found that even a slight increase in ambient carbon monoxide levels from automobiles and other sources is associated with increased mortality. The study, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, also found that even short-term exposure to ambient carbon monoxide (CO) — at levels below the current air quality guidelines and considered safe — had an association with increased mortality.
“These findings have significant public health implications,” said researcher Kai Chen, Assistant Professor from Yale University in the US. “Millions and millions of people live in environments with elevated CO levels and in environments where the CO levels are within the current guidelines considered ‘safe range,” Chen added.
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For the study, the research team collected data from 337 cities across 18 countries and analyzed data, including a total of 40 million deaths from 1979 to 2016, and ran it through a statistical model. Overall, a one milligram per cubic meter increase in the average CO concentration of the previous day was associated with a 0.91 percent increase in daily total mortality, the study found.
The team also discovered that the exposure-response curve was steeper at daily CO levels lower than one milligram per cubic meter, indicating a greater risk of mortality per increment in CO exposure, and this persisted at daily concentrations as low as 0.6 mg/mA or less. The findings reveal that there is no evidence for a threshold value below which exposure to ambient CO can be considered “safe.”
ALSO READ: Where Did Earth Get Its Carbon From?
The US National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ambient CO (approximately 7 milligrams per cubic meter for the daily average) was established in 1971 and has not been revisited for the past five decades. The same air quality guideline for CO has been applied in other regions such as Europe, whereas a lower value of 4 milligrams per cubic meter was established as China’s air quality standard.
The study’s findings strongly suggest the need to revisit global and national air quality guidelines for CO and, in addition to single-pollutant standards, policies should also be expanded to address traffic-related air pollution mixtures. (IANS/SP)