Air quality in Punjab sinks, triggers health concerns
The state today witnessed one of the worst days in terms of air quality and smog with two cities in the ‘severe’ category and three others in the ‘very poor’ category for almost the entire day with smog-like conditions prevailing across Punjab, raising health concerns among the elderly, children and the vulnerable.
The average AQI today was around 332, far worse than 224 recorded on Diwali this year.
Experts said crackers on Tuesday night due to the Gurpurb celebrations, along with hundreds of farm fires, were responsible for the worst air quality in Ludhiana and Khanna, affecting visibility too. People complained of a choked atmosphere all throughout the day in Ludhiana and Khanna, which reported an AQI of 408 and 417 (severe), respectively.
Other cities too did not fare well with Amritsar (311), Jalandhar (332) and Patiala (362) also falling in the very ‘poor’ category. Many private sports academies and schools have decided to cancel their evening outdoor practice sessions following difficulty in breathing and high particulate matter (PM)-loaded air. Most of the state did not get any sunshine on Wednesday after limited sunlight was witnessed in Punjab on Tuesday.
An AQI of above 400 is considered ‘severe’ and can affect healthy people and seriously impact those with existing illnesses. An AQI between zero and 50 is considered ‘good’, 51 and 100 (satisfactory), 101 and 200 (moderate), 201 and 300 (poor), 301 and 400 (very poor), and 401 and 500 (severe).
The life-threatening PM2.5 particles in Punjab cities were recorded over 220 in almost all cities. Health experts said polluted air might cause or aggravate health problems such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory problems. “Try to stay indoors or use a mask when exposed to outside air,” they said.
PM2.5 are lung-damaging fine particles that are 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter and can travel deep into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs and entering the bloodstream.