In the News
October 11, 2023
October 11, 2023
India’s air quality remains a pressing concern. In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) revised its air quality guidelines, making them stricter. These revisions came in the wake of growing scientific evidence about the damaging effects of air pollution. In fact, the new WHO Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs), following its last global update in 2005, are aimed at providing a clearer framework for countries to combat and reduce the adverse health impacts of air pollution. While many countries have gone ahead and revised their air quality standards as per WHO guidelines, India has been lagging and still follows the old National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) guidelines which was last revised in 2009.
As one of the most populous nations with several cities repeatedly featuring in lists of the world’s most polluted, the stakes for India are particularly high. The outdated standards do not just represent numbers on paper; they translate to real-world consequences for the health of millions of citizens.
In its updation in 2021, the WHO set more stringent standards for six key pollutants: particulate matter (PM2.5 & PM10), ozone (O₃), nitrogen dioxide (NO₂), sulphur dioxide (SO₂), and carbon monoxide (CO). Studies have revealed that addressing these primary pollutants indirectly mitigates the effects of other harmful contaminants in the air.
Of note in these revised guidelines is the adjustment to recommended levels for particulate matter. The WHO now advises that the annual average concentration of PM2.5 (tiny particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less) should not exceed 5 µg/m³. As for PM10 (particles measuring up to 10 micrometres), the recommended annual average is capped at 15 µg/m³. These revised figures mark a significant decrease from prior levels and highlight the understanding that even minimal concentrations can be detrimental to health…
…According to the updated Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), PM2.5 is estimated to reduce an average Indian’s life expectancy by a staggering 5.3 years. For residents of Delhi, often branded as the world’s most polluted city, this number jumps to an alarming 11.9 years.