Air Pollution

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Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Effects of particulate matter

Mains level: Air pollution is an important topic of discussion these days, due to the SC’s ban on firecrackers. Also, these issues are specially mentioned in the Mains Syllabus.



  1. The article talks about the rising level of air pollution in winters, its effects and possible sollutions

Increase of Pollution Level in India in winters

  1. The transition of Monsoon to Winter will end the temporary respite from air pollution
  2. A combination of festivals, post-harvest crop burning, firing of brick kilns and reduced wind speed will soon increase the level of particulate air pollution in India

Data on deaths related to pollution

  1. According to the Global Burden of Disease study estimates, ambient air pollution is responsible for 3,283 premature deaths every day, in India

Comparison of pollution levels between India and China

  1. Half of the top 20 polluted cities in the world are in India
  2. India has seen the steepest increase in air pollution since 2010
  3. Although China achieved global notoriety some years ago, it is India that has experienced a nearly 150 per cent increase in ozone-attributable deaths over the past 25 years
  4. In comparison, the number of people who died due to diseases caused by pollution in China did not increase much in the same period

Not all pollution related deaths are due to lung problems

  1. Till now, almost all air pollution-related deaths were thought to be due to lung diseases
  2. Evidence, however, is accumulating that links short and long-term exposure to air pollution with other diseases: these include heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and cancer
  3. In fact, the highest proportion of pollution-related deaths are due to these other conditions

How Particulate Matter effects our body?

  1. Studies have shown that ultrafine particulate matter, rapidly enters the bloodstream after being inhaled
  2. These particles then interfere with the normal reactivity of blood vessels, and are distributed to many organs including the kidneys
  3. Particulate matter accounts for over 90 per cent of the particles emitted by road traffic

Other effects of air pollution

  1. Even when air pollution does not kill, it reduces the number of years lived in full health
  2. It increases asthma attacks, eye and skin disorders, and increasing the risk of development of high blood pressure, obesity, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, psychiatric disorders and frailty

What we need?

  1. We need
    (1) better urban planning starting with proper land-use assessment,
    (2) reducing major transport activity close to communities,
    (3) relocating traffic sources (roads, airports) from crowded areas,
    (4) avoiding the mixing of industrial and residential areas,
    (5) making better roads,
    (6) reducing uncovered areas in cities by planting more grass and plants,
    (7) improving transport technologies,
    (8) and increasing awareness of the societal burden imposed by air pollution
  2. Interdisciplinary academic groups should evaluate the full range of impacts of air pollution on human health
  3. And should develop tools to identify pollutants, find origin of particles, and develop culturally-appropriate solutions


Particulate Matter

  1. Atmospheric aerosol particles, also known as atmospheric particulate matter, particulate matter (PM), particulates, or suspended particulate matter (SPM) are microscopic solid or liquid matter suspended in Earth’s atmosphere
  2. The term aerosol commonly refers to the particulate/air mixture, as opposed to the particulate matter alone
  3. Sources of particulate matter can be natural or anthropogenic
  4. They have impacts on climate and precipitation that adversely affect human health

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