Thursday, September 08, 2011

Exposure to Particulate Pollution in Auto-Rickshaws (3-Wheelers) in Delhi

This is the research work carried out by Mr. Joshua Apte, a Ph.D student at the University of California, Berkeley. He spent a year in Delhi, in 2010, taking measurements and analyzing the results to better understand the levels of pollution for a commuter in an auto-rickshaw (also known as 3-wheelers). Here is a video from a section of the trip.

Following his presentation at the CSE's Dialogue with Doctors workshop on August 31st, 2011 (read CSE's press release and access the presentations)
this is what we saw in the media

Indian Express, September 1st, 2011
Delhi seems less polluted now, but autos not best way to travel

An Autoricshaw ride in Delhi comes at a great cost, and not just for your pocket. A recent study conducted by Joshua Apte, a PhD candidate from the University of Berkeley, has found that a single trip in an autorickshaw in Delhi could expose you to levels of air pollution that are much greater than full-day exposure experienced by residents of developed countries.

Apte was presenting the results of his study at a dialogue on air pollution organised by the Centre for Science and Environment here on Wednesday. He explained that the study was conducted during February and May 2010, and researchers were made to travelled in autorickshaws on a fixed route in South Delhi for the purpose.

“We made two trips a day in an autorickshaw, 75 times from South Delhi to Connaught Place. During each trip, we measured the actual particle concentration inside the vehicle while moving through the traffic,” he explained.

The study shows that commuters breathe far more harmful particles inside vehicles while travelling, as compared to areas with ambient air concentration, such as Lodhi Gardens. “The particle matter (PM2.5) concentration inside vehicles can be 1.5 times higher thah the surrounding background air, and ultrafine levels are about eight times higher,” Apte explained.

A lot of this, he said, has to do with exposure to sudden peaks in pollutant levels. Using video footage taken while travelling in an autorickshaw, he illustrated how the readings for particulate matter inside the vehicle spike everytime it gets stuck in traffic.

“There is very little data on exposure to air pollution while in traffic, as opposed to ambient air levels. Ambient air monitors, which are now being installed in Delhi, will miss out on a bit of the story. The fact is, there is a very high concentration of pollutants while travelling in open vehicles, and these peak exposures can do major damage,” Apte said.

Pollution levels have improved considerably over the past decade, and the city is no longer enveloped in black smog, admitted CSE executive director Anumita Roychowdhury. However, she cautioned that the authorities must not take this for granted, because pollutants still pose a major risk to people’s health.

“Earlier, pollution used to be measured only in terms of particulate matter. But now we have new substances to deal with, such as nox and ozone. People who access urban roads regularly and those who live close to roads are at a high risk of being affected by vehicular air pollution. According to estimates, about 55 per cent of Delhi’s population lives within 500 metres of such roads and are, therefore, prone to a variety of physical disorders,” she said.

And there are also people who misconstrue the objective of the study and publish this...

Times of India, September 1st, 2011
AC cars may keep you fit

Air pollution is posing serious health hazards for the people of the national capital.

Researchers from Berkeley University carried out a survey in Delhi between February and May 2010 to analyse the impact of pollution on those using public transport.

The study – Concentration of fine, ultrafine and black carbon particles in autorickshaws in New Delhi, India – published in Atmospheric Environment, says those travelling in autos and cars with windows rolled down are exposed to 1.5 times more PM 2.5 concentrations than the ambient air. Exposure to ultrafine particles are 8.5 times higher. Joshua Apte, who headed the research, said those travelling in air-conditioned vehicles suffered 35-55% less pollution as compared to those in autos.

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