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Updated: December 4, 2013 07:36 IST

Household air pollution way beyond safe limits in India

M. Dinesh Varma
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The exposure atlas for household air pollution (HAP) in India, put together by a collective of global experts and led by investigators at Sri Ramachandra University (SRU), Chennai, shows that even States that fare better in terms of HAP concentration are way beyond the safe limits recommended by the World Health Organisation. For instance, a relatively well off Tamil Nadu had a HAP exposure of 150-200 micrograms of PM 2.5 (particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometres and which is respirable) per cubic metre of air — almost five times the WHO’s guideline range of 10-35 micrograms per cubic metre.

For other States, the HAP exposure, measured over a 24-hour concentration of particulate matter in households using solid cook fuels, ranged from values of 163 (in living areas) to 609 g/m3 pf  PM 2.5 in the kitchen area.

The exposure atlas — first of its kind on HAP — was compiled on the basis of data from a 24-hour monitoring of concentrations of  PM 2.5 in 617 rural households (kitchen and living area) from four States, including Tamil Nadu. The other three “geographically and culturally distinct States” were Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

“The exposure atlas fills a long-felt gap in metrics on the assessment of HAP and can be a starting point to drive reduction measures across predominantly rural communities,” said Kalpana Balakrishnan, Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Department of Environmental Health Engineering, SRU.

Dr. Balakrishnan was part of an international working group that prepared the exposure atlas and used the Indian data sets for launching the Global Burden of Disease 2010 — a comprehensive risk-disease assessment — a few months ago.

“This is certainly pioneering work,” said Kirk R. Smith, chair of the working group on HAP and Professor of Global Environmental Health at the University of California, Berkeley, which is in long-term collaboration with SRU.

For creating the atlas, researchers used measurements in the four States and then national household survey data to derive estimates for the rest of the country.

“While the atlas is not of much help in mapping household-level pollution, it is pretty good in getting averages for States as a whole,” said Dr. Smith who is currently a Fulbright Nehru Distinguished Chair at IIT-Delhi.

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Dear Hindu,
Great effort to create awareness on the least understood subject.
Exposure atlas (or HAP map in layman terms)is the first step in the principle "you don't control what you don't measure".
Chennai SRU team deserves a salute.
Coming to practcal terms on HAP or IAQ, treatment is cheaper than measuring PM 2.5. Ventilate, test CO2 & control below 1000 PPM & live longer with quality life.
In winter months, HAP in cold areas multiply by several times as ventilation /fresh air supply is almost bloacked in most households.
One of main lapses in controlling HAP is standalone (cosmetic) split ACs with no fresh air doors, whereas (disappearing) window AC units have fresh air doors to dilute HAP.
Grand parents used to say "cross ventilate" your sleeping areas.
The other cheaper alternative in measuring HAP or IAQ is CO2 testing; A value of 1000 PPM CO2 indicates a well-ventilated indoor; hospitals & KG schools shall have to have less than 700 PPM CO2.

from:  srinivasa sridhar
Posted on: Dec 5, 2013 at 09:21 IST

Thanks Satyadev. The colours were in fact misleading and if not for your
comment I would have assumed the red ones were more polluted.

from:  Suresh
Posted on: Dec 4, 2013 at 11:56 IST

The graphic is misleading and inconsistent in its use of colours. Red is usually a danger mark. And in data visualization, darker colours indicate greater intensity. Both rules are violated - shades of red are safer in the picture, and the 0-150 and 350-400 are both represented in light pink with a deep red range in between. Green states are the most dangerously polluted, but they are coloured in pale green.

from:  Satyadev
Posted on: Dec 4, 2013 at 09:58 IST

Why is the article like a breaking news. It does not tell about why or how much it is practically affecting day to day life.

from:  Naresh Kumar
Posted on: Dec 4, 2013 at 08:40 IST

On an average, all southern states use a lot of masala in sambar and rasam. So HAP index will be naturally high. The author could clarify the objective of this "assessment" and the diseases that are targeted.

from:  Jacob
Posted on: Dec 4, 2013 at 08:29 IST
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