The real-time data from Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) showed that the continuous air quality monitoring stations at Perungudi and Kodungaiyur recorded a maximum of 457 ug/m3 and 422 ug/m3 of particulate matter of a size below 2.5 microns (PM2.5). According to the air quality index (AQI), this could cause breathing difficulties to most people on prolonged exposure.
The stations at Alandur, Manali Village, Manali, Royapuram and Velachery recorded the PM2.5 level ranging from 355 ug/m3 to 383 ug/m3 as against the prescribed standard of 60 ug/m3.
However, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) claimed that PM2.5 level during this Bhogi day was in the range of 52-102 ug/m3 while PM10 was in the range of 103-256 ug/m3 as against the prescribed standard of 100 ug/m3.
TNPCB chairman said in an official release that the minimum value observed was 113 (moderate) while the maximum was 241 (poor). Compared to last year’s AQI value, the current year AQI is found to be decreased which indicates that the air quality has improved,” the release said.
The official added that the overall status of gaseous pollutants like Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) at all 15 stations were found to be well within the prescribed standards of 80 ug/m3 on both the pre-Bhogi day and Bhogi day.
As part of the efforts to prevent the public from burning of plastic and rubber materials, TNPCB, along with the Greater Chennai Corporation and police, had set up 32 patrolling teams in the city. “During patrolling, burning of waste materials were noticed in some places and it was put off by the patrolling team using water and sand. The Corporation seized plastic waste and waste tyres kept for burning. More than 2.6 tonnes of waste tyres were seized and are being sent to a common hazardous waste management facility at Gummidipoondi,” the TNPCB release said.
Fumes can cause respiratory issues for COVID patients, docs advise caution
On Bhogi every year, the city clocks high levels of pollution. With the COVID-19 threat still hanging over the city, air pollution can pose a risk for recovering patients and those in home quarantine, said experts.
A recent study stated that 15 per cent of COVID deaths can be linked to air pollution, with approximately 27 per cent in East Asia amounting to air quality.
Toxic fumes can trigger an exacerbation of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, in addition to provoking pre-existing respiratory illnesses. Recovering patents are still vulnerable, especially those who were hospitalised or categorised with a severe level of illness.
“Persistent coughing at the time can cause a distressing condition in patients. There might also be a chance for infection, though this applies to all kinds of intense air pollution. The recovery process is long, and patients’ lungs may not have fully healed. The major concern is pulmonary fibrosis, which may cause cysts to form when air goes into the pocket of the lungs due to scarring. This may burst, following which it is a medical emergency,” said Dr Anantha Subramanian, Pulmonologist, Kauvery Hospital.
Children remain the most vulnerable group during such events, say paediatric pulmonologists, owing to their vulnerability to air pollution. “Many children face asthma and breathing issues during Bhogi, owing to the pressure that is placed on the lungs. While we cannot yet state that children recovering from COVID may see an increased or decreased risk, general caution must be observed by parents,” said Dr Suresh Natarajan, Senior Consultant - General Paediatrics, Paediatric Pulmonology and Allergy Specialist, Rainbow Children’s Hospital.
“Last year, Chennai’s pollution levels spiked on Bhogi day, and some places recorded a maximum of 500 micrograms/ Cubic meter of particulate matter. This is a very high level of air pollution for anyone. There are a few patients who are still on home oxygen support, pulmonary rehabilitation therapy, and those with breathlessness in their recovery phase,” said Dr Aishwarya Vinoth, Consultant – Pulmonology, Rela Hospital.
17 flights delayed due to smoke on airport runways
The arrival and departure of 17 flights were delayed at the Chennai airport on Wednesday since the airfield was covered by smoke following Bhogi.
The AAI had appealed to the residents in the area to not burn too much of waste materials. Though the services were uninterrupted till 7.30 am, flights could not land after that. Nine flights, which were scheduled to arrive from Bengaluru, Kolkatta, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Delhi, were delayed for up to one hour. Similarly, eight flights scheduled to depart to Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Pune, Mumbai, Kochi, and Patna were also delayed.
Meanwhile, Chennai-Siliguri flight was cancelled following bad weather in Siliguri. The flight was scheduled to depart from Chennai with 122 passengers at 9.10 am. After all the passengers boarded the flight, the pilot received information about the bad weather and the flight was cancelled.