Did India’s air quality improve in 2020? How did COVID-19 affect air quality in India? Smart Air analyzed 2020 India air pollution data for five of India’s major cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Hyderabad.
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2020 India Air Quality Report
Of the five major Indian cities analyzed in 2020, all averaged air quality levels well over the WHO recommended level of 10 micrograms. Not surprisingly, Delhi was the worst, with air quality levels nearly 9 times the WHO recommended limit.
Next were Kolkata, Mumbai, and Hyderabad with levels 6.5, 4, and 3.6 times higher than the WHO recommended limit. The major Indian city with the best air quality was Chennai, averaging 26 micrograms of PM2.5 pollution, still 2.6 times over the recommended limit.
Air Quality Improved Significantly in Two Major Cities
Famous for its air pollution, Delhi saw air quality improve 19% over 2019. Despite this improvement, Delhi’s air quality still ranks as the worst of these major cities in the world.
Hyderabad also had some good news in regards to air quality improvement! The city saw a double-digit reduction in air pollution levels from 2019 to 2020.
Chennai Saw a Minor Improvement in Air Quality in 2020
As the city with the best air quality of the five major Indian cities analyzed, Chennai saw a 6% reduction in dangerous PM2.5 pollution levels in 2020. Chennai’s PM2.5 levels averaged 25 micrograms which is less than one-third of Delhi’s yearly average in 2020.
Air Quality Did Not Change Significantly in Two Major Indian Cities
In both Kolkata and Mumbai, air quality levels did not improve.
In fact, Mumbai even had a slight increase in air pollution levels from 2019 to 2020.
Microscopic PM2.5 Particles in the Air
The analysis of 2020 India air pollution is based on PM2.5 pollution, particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter that can penetrate deep into the lungs and even enter the bloodstream. Studies have shown that PM2.5 raises blood pressure, inflammation, and rates of heart attacks and strokes.
The analysis uses over 41,000 hourly air quality data points from the US Embassy and consulates in five major Indian cities. This data is open for researchers, although it is limited. It comes from only one pollution sensor in each city, and pollution can vary between neighborhoods.
Studies Document Protective Effects of Purifiers, Masks
Despite the harms of PM2.5, studies have found that wearing masks prevents harmful effects on blood pressure and heart rate variability. Similarly, placebo-controlled studies of air purifiers have found that reducing particulate in the home prevents harm to blood pressure, inflammation, and immune response—even among young, healthy twenty-year-olds.
How I Protect Myself
Smart Air is a certified B Corp committed to combating the myths big companies use to artificially inflate the price of clean air. To help people living in polluted cities protect themselves, Smart Air provides empirically backed, no-nonsense purifiers and masks, thereby helping to lower the cost of clean air
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