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Air Quality Index Explained | 61st Class | IAS 2019

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The National Air Quality Index (AQI) was launched in New Delhi on 17 September 2014 under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The Central Pollution Control Board along with State Pollution Control Boards has been operating National Air Monitoring Program (NAMP) covering 240 cities of the country having more than 342 monitoring stations.An Expert Group comprising medical professionals, air quality experts, academia, advocacy groups, and SPCBs was constituted and a technical study was awarded to IIT Kanpur. IIT Kanpur and the Expert Group recommended an AQI scheme in 2014.While the earlier measuring index was limited to three indicators, the new index measures eight parameters.The continuous monitoring systems that provide data on near real-time basis are installed in New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad. There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe. The proposed AQI will consider eight pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb) for which short-term (up to 24-hourly averaging period) National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed. Based on the measured ambient concentrations, corresponding standards and likely health impact, a sub-index is calculated for each of these pollutants. The worst sub-index reflects overall AQI. Likely health impacts for different AQI categories and pollutants have also been suggested, with primary inputs from the medical experts in the group. The AQI values and corresponding ambient concentrations (health breakpoints) as well as associated likely health impacts for the identified eight pollutants are as follows: AQI Category, Pollutants and Health Breakpoints AQI Category (Range) PM10 (24hr) PM2.5 (24hr) NO2 (24hr) O3 (8hr) CO (8hr) SO2 (24hr) NH3 (24hr) Pb (24hr) Good (0–50) 0–50 0–30 0–40 0–50 0–1.0 0–40 0–200 0–0.5 Satisfactory (51–100) 51–100 31–60 41–80 51–100 1.1–2.0 41–80 201–400 0.5–1.0 Moderately polluted (101–200) 101–250 61–90 81–180 101–168 2.1–10 81–380 401–800 1.1–2.0 Poor (201–300) 251–350 91–120 181–280 169–208 10–17 381–800 801–1200 2.1–3.0 Very poor (301–400) 351–430 121–250 281–400 209–748 17–34 801–1600 1200–1800 3.1–3.5 Severe (401–500) 430+ 250+ 400+ 748+ 34+ 1600+ 1800+ 3.5+ AQI Associated Health Impacts Good (0–50) Minimal impact Satisfactory (51–100) May cause minor breathing discomfort to sensitive people. Moderately polluted (101–200) May cause breathing discomfort to people with lung disease such as asthma, and discomfort to people with heart disease, children and older adults. Poor (201–300) May cause breathing discomfort to people on prolonged exposure, and discomfort to people with heart disease. Very poor (301–400) May cause respiratory illness to the people on prolonged exposure. Effect may be more pronounced in people with lung and heart diseases. Severe (401–500) May cause respiratory impact even on healthy people, and serious health impacts on people with lung/heart disease. The health impacts may be experienced even during light physical activity.


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