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Nationwide study finds air quality worst in Perungudi dump yard

Special Correspondent
The Hindu
June 06, 2006

It had the largest number of chemicals that affect most organs Presently, none of the toxic, volatile, organic and sulphur compounds tested by the study is being systematically monitored by the Government.

CHENNAI: If results of a recent nation-wide study of air quality are anything to go by, Tamil Nadu's citizens are not breathing easy.

Two samples from the state out of 21 collected from select locations across the country by a vigilante organisation, Community Environment Monitoring have been identified as among the most polluted. The third most polluting sample was lifted from Delhi.

A sample from the Perungudi dump yard contained the largest number of chemicals found in any Indian sample. Another one lifted from near the effluent discharge point of a PVC plant at Mettur also had high chemical content. Both samples had chemicals known to affect most organs of the body.

The study, 'Smoke Screen - Ambient Air Quality in India,' conducted between March 2004 and December 2005, reported the presence of 45 chemicals, including 13 carcinogens in 21 samples taken from various locations.

Thirteen of them were from Tamil Nadu, including the Mettur, Perungudi and Manali industrial areas and the SIPCOT Industrial Complex, Cuddalore.

The samples were collected with the help of a low-cost air-sampling tool comprising a plastic bag within a bucket, said Shweta Narayan of Community Environmental Monitoring. The samples were tested in a United States Environment Protection Agency-certified laboratory in California.

"Worst samples"

Denny Larson, director, U.S.-based Global Community Monitor, who introduced the bucket sampling system, said the samples from India were the worst he had seen in his work in 12 countries. The levels from one of the locations were at least 32,000 times higher than safe levels. Currently, none of the toxic volatile organic and sulphur compounds tested by the study was being systematically monitored by the Government. The Pollution Control Boards should set standards for permissible limits of toxic gases in ambient air and involve the community in monitoring.

Releasing the report here on Monday, V. Shantha, Director, Cancer Institute, said environment pollution could not be confined merely to ambient air toxicity. Groundwater pollution, noxious exhaust from poorly maintained vehicles and smoke from firewood kitchens and cigarette smoking also compromised the health of the people.

Study sought

She suggested that a study on the health hazards of people living in the affected areas be undertaken to highlight the gravity of the problem, and offered the services of the Cancer Institute to this project.

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