Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: Millions of Indians are exposed to dangerous levels of highly toxic gases, including volatile organic compounds and sulphur gases, through the air they breathe, according to a report released by the Chennai-based Community Environmental Monitoring.

Titled "Smokescreen: Ambient Air Quality in India", the report released here recently by Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment, documents 45 chemicals, including 13 carcinogens, that were found in 21 air samples taken from 13 locations across the country between 2004 and 2006.

Twenty-eight chemicals were found at levels up to 32,000 times higher than considered safe in residential air by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). The samples have been taken from residential areas and public thoroughfares in or near industrial areas, effluent discharge channels, garbage dumps and toxic waste facilities that include landfills and incinerators. As part of the study, samples were collected from traffic junction at ITO where 18 chemicals were found including cancer-causing benzene that was found to be 104 times higher than the safe levels.

India has no standards for chemicals in ambient air.

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