WHO’s new Air Quality Norms: Almost entire India termed as Polluted as per new rules - Know Details Here

The new air quality guidelines by the World Health Organisation (WHO) have taken into account several scientific studies done in recent years that have suggested that air pollution is much more damaging to human health than known till now.

Created On: Sep 23, 2021 12:11 ISTModified On: Sep 24, 2021 15:13 IST
WHO Air Quality Norms
WHO Air Quality Norms

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on September 22, 2021, released strict air quality norms and lowered the recommended levels of pollutants that can be considered safe for human health.

The new guidelines by the World Health Organisation (WHO) have taken into account several scientific studies done in recent years that have suggested that air pollution is much more damaging to human health than known till now.

By the global health body's own estimates, nearly 7 million deaths every year can now be attributed to the diseases caused by air pollution and environmental degradation.

WHO revises Air Quality Norms: Key Details

Earlier, a PM2.5 concentration of 25 micrograms per cubic metre in a 24-hour period was considered safe, however, WHO has now said that a concentration of over 15 micrograms is not safe.

The levels recommended for the levels of six most common pollutants- PM10, PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide- have all been revised downwards by the WHO from the existing norms that have been in place since 2005.

PM10 and PM2.5 refer to the particulate matters of sizes 2.5 microns or less, 10 microns and less, respectively and are the most common pollutants and the causes of respiratory diseases.

Revised air quality norms: What it means for India?

The revised guidelines for air quality released by the World Health Organisation means that nearly entire India will be considered a polluted Zone for most of the year.

South Asia, particularly India, remains one of the polluted areas all over the world, with pollutant levels in these regions higher than the recommended ones. However, India is not alone.

As per WHO, more than 90% of the world’s population has been living in areas that did not meet its 2005 pollution standards and with the introduction of new norms, this proportion will go up.

According to the health experts, there are two things that should be taken into consideration-

1. There is now sufficient evidence to suggest that the particulate matter in the atmosphere has damaging effects on human health even at levels that were below 2005 WHO standards.

2. The standards set by India, which are way above 2005 WHO guidelines, probably needs a revision in order to protect human lives.

India’s air quality standards: What must be done?

The National air quality standards of India are much more lenient, even when compared to WHO’s 2005 norms. For instance, the recommended PM2.5 concentration over a period of 24 hours is 60 micrograms per cubic metre, in comparison to 25 micrograms as advised by WHO’s 2005 guidelines.

According to the health experts and scientists, the new guidelines by the World Health Organisation (WHO) regarding the air quality norms must push India to work harder to make its air safer and cleaner.

Even though the air quality norms introduced by the World Health Organisation does not bind any country to follow them, it still affects the international image of the nation as a favourable tourist and investment destination.

According to SN Tripathi, an IIT Professor and a steering committee member of India’s National Clean Energy programme, India needs to strengthen its health data and revise the National ambient air quality standards accordingly.

Raw health data is significant for conducting a large range of health studies as well as for studying the impact of air pollution on India’s varied demography.

WHO on new air quality standards:

The World Health organization while releasing the new air quality norms said that 80% of the deaths because of PM2.5 exposure can be avoided if the countries are able to attain the new air quality standards.

The Global Health Body further added that even achieving its 2005 standards will result in avoiding 48% of these deaths.

Particulate matters which are harmful to human health are primarily generated by fuel combustion in different sectors including energy, transport, household, agriculture and industry.

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