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Plastic Burning Main Reason Behind Visibility Reduction Over Delhi: IIT Madras Study

The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, may help develop better policies to improve the air quality and visibility in North India, say experts

Plastic Burning Main Reason Behind Visibility Reduction Over Delhi: IIT Madras Study
Highlights
  • Visibility reduction in Delhi caused by hydrochloric acid emissions: Study
  • Earlier studies show PM2.5 is major pollutant responsible for fog: Experts
  • Plastic-contained waste burning emit highly toxic chemicals: Study

New Delhi: Chloride-rich particles resulting from plastic burning may be primarily responsible for haze and fog formation in Northern India, including Delhi, during the winter months, according to an international study led by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras. The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, may help develop better policies to improve the air quality and visibility in North India. Many studies in the past have identified particulate matter or aerosol particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometre (PM2.5) as a major pollutant, responsible for haze and fog formation over Indo-Gangetic plain, including Delhi.

Also Read: Air Pollution Linked To Increased Risk Of Irreversible Vision Loss: Study

However, the role of PM2.5 and detailed chemistry of haze and fog formation over national capital was poorly understood. The new study found that chloride-rich particles were the highest inorganic fraction in particulate matter, primarily responsible for haze and fog formation in the region.

We realised that despite absolute PM2.5 mass burden over Delhi being much less than other polluted megacities around the world, including Beijing, the pollution and atmospheric chemistry of Delhi is much more complex to understand. This work put forward importance of measurements and modelling approaches to scientifically conclude that half of the water uptake and visibility reduction by aerosol particles around Delhi is caused by the hydrochloric acid (HCl) emissions, which is locally emitted in Delhi potentially due to plastic contained waste burning and other industrial processes, said Sachin S Gunthe, Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, who led the study.

The latest study greatly enhances our understanding about the precise role of PM2.5 in chemistry of fog formation, which will help policy makers to frame the better policies for improving the air quality and visibility over the national capital. The researchers noted that during winter season, most of the Indo Gangetic Plain invariably is engulfed in a dense fog and haze, particularly during the months of December and January.

Over the national capital, dense fog negatively impacts the air and surface transport resulting in huge financial losses and jeopardise human lives, they said. The study explained that complex chemical reactions involving HCl, which is directly emitted in the atmosphere from plastic contained waste burning and few industrial processes, is primarily responsible for high PM2.5 chloride and subsequent haze and fog formation over Delhi during chilly winter nights.

Also Read: Here Is How You Can Protect Your Health Against Air Pollution And COVID-19

The team, including researchers from the Harvard University, US, and Manchester University in the UK, deployed state-of-the-art instruments to measure the chemical composition and other important properties of PM2.5, and the relative humidity and temperature in Delhi.

Professor R Ravikrishna, from Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Madras, noted that with the results from first couple of days, it was very clear to us that Delhi is different.

Generally for a polluted urban region like Delhi, one would expect sulfate to be highest inorganic fraction of particulate matter, however, we found chloride to be the highest inorganic fraction of particulate matter, Professor Ravikrishna, who was also part of the study, said.

The researchers explained that HCl from various sources combines with ammonia, which is emitted in great amounts over this region. The resulting ammonium chloride (NH4Cl) condenses to aerosol and exponentially increase the water uptake ability of aerosol particles resulting in the increase in size, eventually leading to dense fog formation, they said. In the absence of the excess chloride, the fog formation otherwise would be suppressed significantly, according to the researchers.

The study emphasised that plastic burning emits toxic substances in the atmosphere impacting human health, and these emissions are for the first time linked to visibility and climate. Plastic-contained waste burning can emit highly toxic chemicals called ‘dioxins’, which can accumulate in food chain causing severe problems with reproduction and immune system, the researchers said,

Given that we find plastic burning as a potential cause of the reduced visibility, we hope these findings will help policy makers to efficiently enforce and implement policies that are already in place towards regulating open burning of plastic contained-waste and other potential chlorine sources, Mr. Gunthe added.

Also Read: Air Pollution Linked To Increased Risk Of Pregnancy Loss In India: Lancet Study

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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World

23,96,06,768Cases
20,13,42,617Active
3,33,82,100Recovered
48,82,051Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 23,96,06,768 and 48,82,051 have died; 20,13,42,617 are active cases and 3,33,82,100 have recovered as on October 15, 2021 at 4:15 am.

India

3,40,37,592 16,862Cases
2,03,6782,908Active
3,33,82,100 19,391Recovered
4,51,814 379Deaths
In India, there are 3,40,37,592 confirmed cases including 4,51,814 deaths. The number of active cases is 2,03,678 and 3,33,82,100 have recovered as on October 15, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

65,86,280 2,384

33,157 6

64,13,418 2,343

1,39,705 35

Kerala

48,29,944 9,246

96,421 1,802

47,06,856 10,952

26,667 96

Karnataka

29,82,399 310

9,607 43

29,34,870 347

37,922 6

Tamil Nadu

26,83,396 1,259

15,451 199

26,32,092 1,438

35,853 20

Andhra Pradesh

20,59,122 540

6,588 27

20,38,248 557

14,286 10

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,008 12

135 4

16,86,976 16

22,897

West Bengal

15,79,012 530

7,576 81

15,52,491 601

18,945 10

Delhi

14,39,311 28

337 1

14,13,885 29

25,089

Odisha

10,33,809 521

4,890 38

10,20,645 477

8,274 6

Chhattisgarh

10,05,614 16

203 4

9,91,841 20

13,570

Rajasthan

9,54,382 8

42 6

9,45,386 2

8,954

Gujarat

8,26,244 34

215 20

8,15,943 14

10,086

Madhya Pradesh

7,92,669 12

111 1

7,82,035 11

10,523

Haryana

7,71,035 16

105 158

7,60,881

10,049 174

Bihar

7,26,016 8

42 6

7,16,313 2

9,661

Telangana

6,68,618 168

4,171 40

6,60,512 207

3,935 1

Assam

6,05,847 207

3,646 157

5,96,263 362

5,938 2

Punjab

6,01,971 33

234 11

5,85,199 16

16,538 6

Jharkhand

3,48,406 11

130 4

3,43,141 7

5,135

Uttarakhand

3,43,729 28

175 22

3,36,157 6

7,397

Jammu And Kashmir

3,30,834 93

935 11

3,25,473 104

4,426

Himachal Pradesh

2,21,113 182

1,387 5

2,16,011 173

3,715 4

Goa

1,77,356 68

679 27

1,73,342 39

3,335 2

Puducherry

1,27,259 49

647 4

1,24,763 53

1,849

Manipur

1,22,432 69

1,444 15

1,19,099 84

1,889

Mizoram

1,10,719 901

13,601 435

96,744 1,332

374 4

Tripura

84,295 4

110 8

83,369 12

816

Meghalaya

82,734 87

892 31

80,411 115

1,431 3

Chandigarh

65,295 10

32 5

64,443 15

820

Arunachal Pradesh

54,958 4

202 22

54,476 26

280

Sikkim

31,722 6

224 1

31,108 7

390

Nagaland

31,516 9

230 8

30,613 17

673

Ladakh

20,867 6

44 2

20,615 4

208

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,675

3 1

10,668 1

4

Lakshadweep

10,365

2 0

10,312

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,640 3

10 1

7,501 2

129

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