–Air pollution causes a large number of premature deaths each year, says WHO
ISLAMABAD: The federal capital’s virtual lockdown that began on March 25 to contain the risk of a coronavirus outbreak has resulted in a drastic decline in air pollution.
Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Director Labs Dr Mohsina Zubair told APP that this was mainly due to a cut down in traffic. “Large bus fleets of public private offices, schools, colleges and universities are one of the major causes of increased harmful air pollutants in the air,” he explained.
“The air quality in the federal capital for consecutive six days since last Friday has remained healthy as ambient pollutants were below the permissible limits,” she said.
“For the first time in years, air pollution in the metropolis has reduced to such a low level. However, a particulate matter of 2.5 microns was recorded above 92 microgrammes per meter cube (ug/m3) at the end of last year. That is the highest ever ratio and very hazardous for human health,” Dr Mohsina said.
She added that as per the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) daily air quality report, hazardous environmental pollutant of 2.5 microns (PM2.5) was below the permissible limits of National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS).
Dr Mohsina informed that PM2.5 ratio also dropped to a single digit value of 4ug/m3 during the day time as most of the schools, universities colleges and offices were shut down and minuscule traffic was seen on the roads.
The PM2.5 ratio in the air was recorded 16.17 ug/m3 whereas the NEQS allows 35ug/m3 presence in the atmosphere. However, PM2.5 was also below the World Health Organisation (WHO) 24 hours mean of 20 micrograms per meter cube that was recorded for the first in the federal capital’s ambient air quality history.
To a question, she said the EPA staff was divided into two groups to run the business with minimum human resources to contain the spread of coronavirus. “The EPA staff is working on rotation and managing all the work at the department,” she added.
It may be noted here that WHO, in a report published last year, had said that air pollution causes a huge number of premature deaths as PM 2.5 could enter human blood through lungs cells.
The daily ambient air quality report by EPA, the 24 hours average ratio of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and Sulphur dioxide (SO2) was 12.93 micrograms per cubic meter (mg/m³) and 13.3 mg/m³ respectively against the respective National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) of 80 mg/m³ and 120mg/m³.
The data was recorded by calibrated air quality monitors fixed at particular positions with proper readings. However, concentrations of PM2.5 during the evening times were recorded slightly high, whereas the overall ambient air quality of the federal capital was moderate today.
Any other data from any source presenting ambient air quality of Islamabad was neither verified nor approved by the EPA, the report said.