In the era of 'clean fuels' that have reportedly reduced pollution in cities around the world, the dangerous element of Suspended Particulate Matters (SPM) is causing tremendous health concerns. Having their origin in the automobile exhaust, construction sites and industrial units, these particulate matters are known to remain suspended in the air for a long duration and have an ability to be transported for thousands of miles. Suspended in air, these complex mixtures of inorganic and organic solid and liquid particles are known to include carcinogens like the sulfates, nitrates, acids and semi volatile compound. Varying in size from approximately 0.005 to 100 micrometers, these SPMs including their fine and ultra fine versions are known to penetrate deepest areas of the lungs causing severe health hazard.
The exposures to them are known to cause symptoms and diseases ranging from sore throat and allergy to cardio vascular diseases and even premature death. Continued exposure to SPMs and ground level Ozone are also known to cause asthma and weakened immune systems. The most dangerous version known as PM 2.5 (particulates less than 2.5 microns in diameter or 3.33% the size of human hair) are known to trigger even lung cancer and heart attack. Globally, the air quality monitoring and pollution control has fallen flat vis-á-vis the particulate matters. The SPM limit has been among the highest in cities like New Delhi, Jakarta and Chongqing, where they have gone up to 325, 250 and 245 micro grams per cubic meters of air. The PM 10 levels in Kolkata, Seoul and Busan have similarly been at 110, 70 and 60 micro grams per cubic meters of air.
In this backdrop, the level of SPMs not only needs continued and constant monitoring, but also concerted efforts for controlling them. The first step in the process necessarily involves around informing the public about the SPM levels, if needed on an hourly basis. The next step though obvious is the harder one concentrating on creating effective channels for controlling the menace.