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Day after Diwali, Delhi breathes in poison

Day after Diwali, Delhi breathes in poison
According to environmentalists, poisonous gases from fireworks coupled with moisture and stagnant wind shrouded the city with a thick cover of smog forcing citizens to breath in toxic air.

The concentration of PM 2.5 and PM 10, poisonous gases and dust particles in the air shot up to over 16 times of their permissible limits. Besides, the levels of the poisonous Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) hiked by four times and that of Carbon Mono-oxide (CO) became double.

According to the data: Real Time Ambient Air Quality of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), the maximum level of PM 2.5 was recorded at Mandir Marg at 985 micro gm per cubic meter (mgpcm) at 10.30 on Monday morning. The second highest level of PM 2.5 was recorded at 884 mgpcm at 9 am on Monday at R K Puram observatory closely followed by Anand Vihar with 883 mgpcm at 2.30 am in the early hours. 

These readings were almost on the lines of the prediction of the Centre’s Pune-based SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research). 

At around 2 am, the level of PM 10 had breached the 1,000 micrograms mark (in realtime) in many parts of the city including the densely populated RK Puram and Anand Vihar. 

The safe limit of PM 10 is 100 micrograms per cubic metre. The maximum level of PM 10 was 1,680 at Anand Vihar followed by 1,520 at Punjabi Bagh and 1,440 at R K Puram. All these areas are densely populated and also have hospitals and public offices. 

The maximum level of CO (carbon monoxide) was 8.2 mgpcm at RK Puram which was 7.4 at Anand Vihar for which the permissible limit is 4 mgpcm. Similarly, SO2 went up to 317 mgpcm at Anand Vihar and 263.4 mgpcm at R K Puram against its permissible limit of 80 mgpcm. 

The impact of thick smog of poisonous gases was also felt at underground Metro stations of the city. 

Though the Safdarjung observatory recorded visibility at 200 metres officially, there was near-zero visibility in many parts of the city during the early morning hours, with smoke seen hanging heavy even in underground Metro stations. 

Even areas like Shanti Path, which records moderate levels of air quality even on the worst days, had hazardous air, with the US Embassy’s pollution monitor recording extremely high levels of PM 2.5, even way beyond the severe category.

“The highest levels of PM 10 and PM 2.5 are expected between 11 am and 3 am on the night of October 30-31. Air quality will be the worst on October 31 and start to improve from November 1,” SAFAR had said in its prediction.  

Prolonged exposure to PM 2.5 and PM 10 beyond safe limits can harm the respiratory system as the ultra fine particulates can embed deep into the lungs and also enter the bloodstream.

Pollution peaks in the national Capital during Diwali as a hazardous mix of noxious gases and respirable pollutants hang very close to the surface due to low temperatures and near-stagnant wind movements. 

Smoke emanating from farm fires raging across agricultural fields of neighbouring Punjab and Haryana only worsen the situation.
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