Ambient Air Quality Index

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National AMBIENT AIR QUALITY INDEX:- Ambient air quality refers to the condition or quality of air surrounding us in the outdoors. National Ambient Air Quality Standards are the standards for ambient air quality set by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that is applicable nationwide. The CPCB has been conferred this power by the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

Ambient Air Quality Standards in India:- 

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 was enacted by the Central Government with the objective of arresting the deterioration of air quality. 

The current National Ambient Air Quality Standards were notified on 18 November 2009 by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). 


Sl. No.Pollutant SourceDisease 
1Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)Coal combustion1.  Respiratory problems i.e. bronchitis.2. Coughing, wheezing, phlegm and asthma attacks 
2Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)Fuel combustionPulmonary diseases such as OLD, asthma, chronic obstructivepulmonary disease and sometimes acute exacerbation of COPD and in fatal cases, deaths.
3Particulate Matter (PM 10)Dust from construction sites, landfills and agriculture, wildfires and brush/waste burning, industrial sources, wind-blown dust from open lands, pollen and fragments of bacteria.1.Cardiovascular2.Cerebrovascular and 3. Respiratory impacts4. Lung CANCER
4Particulate Matter (PM 2.5)Either human-made or naturally occurring. For e.g. dust, ash and sea-spray , power generation, domestic heating and in vehicle engines.Cause elevated susceptibility to respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory distress, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer.
5Ozone (O3)emitted by cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, chemical plants, and other sources chemically react in the presence of sunlight1.Chest pain, 2. Coughing3. Throat irritation4.Harm lung tissue5. Asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis 
6Lead (Pb)Remodelling/demolition of painted surfaces1.Anemia,2. Weakness, 3. Kidney and brain damage4. Placental barrier 5. Can damage a developing baby’s nervous system
7Carbon Monoxide (CO) Fuel/tobacco combustion1.Headache, 2.Dizziness,3. Vomiting, and nausea4. Heart disease
8Ammonia (NH3emitted from a range of non-agricultural sources, such as catalytic converters in petrol cars, landfill sites, sewage works, composting of organic materials, combustion, industry and wild mammals and birdsBurning of the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract and can result in blindness, lung damage or death
9Benzene (C6H6formed from both natural processes and human activities. Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires. Benzene is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke1. Cancer of the blood-forming organs.2. Leukemia
10Benzo(a)Pyrene(BaP)Combustion processes, especially domestic heating of both local and regional origin Causes skin, lung, and bladder cancer in humans and in animals
11Arsenic(As)Coal combustion1. Cause cancer and skin lesions2. Cardiovascular disease and diabetes
12Nickel (Ni)rocks and soils, volcanic emissions, forest fires and vegetation1. Severe lung damage2. Reversible renal effects3. Allergic dermatitis (most prevalent in women)4. Mucosal irritation and asthma (in workers)5. Allergic skin reactions

Prior to the November 2009 standards, India had set Air Quality standards on 11 April 1994, and this was later revised on 14 October 1998. The 2009 standards further lowered the maximum permissible limits for pollutants and made the standards uniform across the nation. 

International Standards

The 2005 World Health Organization’s WHO Air quality guidelines” offer global guidance on thresholds and limits for 4 key air pollutants that pose health risks –  particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2).

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