Every lungful of breath that you take in Kochi often contains Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) above the permissible limits.
The ambient air quality assessment by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board indicated that the district stations in Kochi were polluted more than other stations in the State. During the five year-long assessment, the Board looked for presence of Sulphur dioxide, Oxides of Nitrogen and RSPM.
While Sulphur dioxide and Oxides of Nitrogen were well within the permissible limits, the RSPM values overshot the permissible levels several days in many months during the five-year period between 2009 and 2013. It was through the 30 stations across the State that the Board assessed the ambient air quality.
The Board monitored the ambient air quality at 30 locations in the State, which included industrial, commercial, residential and sensitive areas.
According to the report, the RSPM values exceeded the limit at MG Road, Ernakulam South, Irumpanam, Kalamassery and TCC Eloor during 2012 and 2013. “There was an increasing trend in RSPM concentration during the past two years. The value at Irumpanam is far above the limit value.” On one occasion, the 24-hour average value even went to 753 microgram per m3 against the permissible limit of 100 at the station, research report said.
The annual average concentrations of Sulphur dioxide and Oxides of Nitrogen are never found exceeding the limit values during 2009 to 2013 whereas the RSPM values exceeded the limit value (60 microgram per m3) many times, the report pointed out.
Researchers pointed out that organic elements such as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, heavy metals and some carcinogens may be present in the particulates from industrial and vehicular emissions. Such emissions also contribute to the increased value of particulate matter. The particulate matter below 10 microns is considered to be RSPM, they said. Continuous exposure to RSPM can have serious health impacts including pulmonary diseases, warned Dr. Sunny P. Orathel, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Government Medical College, Ernakulam.
Children can develop bronchitic asthma if exposed to higher levels of RSPM. In elderly persons, it can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Long-term exposure can even lead to malignancy, said Dr. Orathel.
There has been an increasing trend of pulmonary diseases in non-smokers too, especially women. The exposure to high level of pollution can be one of the reasons for prevalence of such diseases, he said.