Already dealing with the high particulate matters in the air, the national capital this summer has witnessed an alarming build-up of ozone, according to a Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) study. On several occasions and several locations, between February and May 2017, the ozone concentration was found to be very high - 3.4 times the normal standard.
"Early deaths due to ozone pollution are the highest in India. The new burden of disease study by Health Effect Institute has shown that early deaths due to ozone have jumped by 148 per cent in India," it said. Additional analysis also shows heat waves and sunshine have increased the frequency of days with unhealthy levels of ozone.
What is ozone?
Ozone, a more reactive form of oxygen, causes lung-related issues and heavy breathing. According to experts, its not directly emitted but is formed in a reaction between nitrogen oxides emitted from diesel vehicles and hydro-carbons in the presence of sunlight. Its standards are based on hours - the eight-hour standard concentration is 100 units (microgramme per cubic metre) and one-hour standard is 180 units.
"The share of days violating the eight-hour Cental Pollution Control Board (CPCB) standard of 100 microgram per cubic metre in February was 12 per cent - this increased to 19 per cent in March, 52 per cent in April and finally a whopping 77 per cent in May," the CSE said, adding that the trend shows that the ozone pollution in the city was worsening progressively with the onset of summer.
"Delhi and NCR are in the grip of multi-pollutant crisis. Even before the health risk from particulate matter could be addressed, deadly ozone has raised its ugly head in Delhi and NCR.
According to the experts, diesel vehicles are one of the major sources of the nitrogen oxides (NOx) and thus indirectly the ozone. "Diesel vehicles produce five times higher the NOx than the petrol vehicles... The BS-6 standard fuel, which would be launched in India in 2020, would drop this emission by 80 per cent," said Vivek Chatopadhyay of the CSE.
How ozone affects our health?
People at risk from breathing air containing ozone are people with asthma, children and people who increasingly work outside. Ozone makes the inner lining of the airways raw and inflamed, making them constrict to cause wheezing and breathing difficulty. It aggravates lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Ozone also accelerates the rate at which our lungs age, making young people start wheezing like chronic smokers do after a lifetime of smoking.
Exposing healthy young people to as little as 0.3-ppm ozone for two hours while intermittently exercising lowered lung function raised risk of lung and heart damage by pushing up vascular markers of inflammation and autonomic control of heart rate, reported a study in the journal Circulation. Temporary loss of lung function and breathing trouble in healthy people begin at concentrations as low as 0.12 ppm, but these changes are reversible.
Airway lung inflammation makes you more sensitive to allergens, which makes ozone among the most common triggers of asthma attacks by the reduced lung function and irritation that ozone causes in the respiratory system. The raw and swollen airways and lungs further restricts breathing and further reduces lung function. People with asthma, must be prepared to control unexpected attacks in hot summer months.
This World Environment Day protect yourself from the rising ozone pollution?
- Limit driving - use public transport or carpool whenever possible. If you must drive, be sure that your tires are properly inflated and that your car is tuned up.
- Conserve energy - much of our energy comes from fossil fuel-burning power plants that produce ozone.
- Combine errands and reduce trips and limit engine idling.
- If you're exercising outside on a smoggy day and you feel tightness in your chest, or if your eyes are teary, itchy, or red, don't push it.
- Reduce the use of packaging material. The plastic, foil and cardboard used in packaging is manufactured using practices that negatively impact air quality.
- Reusing, recycling and composting can have a big effect on your garbage output, which means less trash going into the landfills which is a big source of air pollution.
- Use environmentally safe paints and cleaning products whenever possible.
- Plant more trees as it is one of the most concrete, satisfying actions you can take to help the air quality in your region.
(With inputs from IANS)