Air quality tests done in Delhi and Gurgaon in the last two months showed presence of alarming levels of toxic heavy metals, according to a new report released Thursday.
The report, titled ''Death in Every Breath'', released by NGO Lung Care Foundation, analysed results of seven air quality tests taken in New Delhi and Gurgaon.
The PM2.5 levels - fine particulate matters in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers - in all the seven tests were above statutory limits, the report said.
"The PM2.5 levels ranged from 90.3 micrograms/m3 to 563.5 micrograms/m3 and were between 1.5 and 9.4 times higher than standards prescribed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC)," it said.
The levels of manganese in five of the seven tests exceed the US EPA Reference Concentration for exposure to manganese (0.05 microgram/m3) and the World Health Organisation annual health-based guidelines value of 0.15 microgram/m3.
There are no standards in India for manganese in ambient air, the report said.
"Levels of lead in six of the seven tests exceed the US EPA 3-month average for exposure to lead (0.15 micrograms/m3) and in two tests exceeds the Indian NAAQS Annual and the WHO annual health-based guidelines value of 0.05 microgram/m3," it said.
Nickel levels in all the tests exceed the WHO annual health-based guidelines value of 0.0025 microgram/m3, which is based on the risk of cancer associated with long-term exposure to nickel.
"Manganese, lead and nickel are neurotoxins that damage the brain. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead. Exposures to even low levels of lead early in life have been linked to effects on IQ, learning, memory and behaviour. It is a matter of very serious concern that such high levels of these toxic metals are found in the air that our children breathe," said Arvind Kumar of Lung Care Foundation.
"There is an urgent need for the policy makers to bring the focus back on the people and the health problems they are reporting to understand the impact of air pollution and its severity. People are the best monitors and they have been reporting severe health impacts already," Kumar added.
The report also found high levels of barium from Diwali fireworks.
"The barium level in the air quality test a day before Diwali is 21.5 micrograms/m3, on the day of Diwali the test has barium level of 5.8 micrograms/m3, and a day after Diwali, the barium level in the test is 2.4 micrograms/m3," the report said.