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|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Unhealthy|| 169* US AQI||PM2.5|
PM2.5 concentration in Lucknow is currently 18.1 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
Unhealthy 169 AQI US
|Sunday, Dec 3|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 149 AQI US
|Monday, Dec 4|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 144 AQI US
|Tuesday, Dec 5|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 136 AQI US
|Wednesday, Dec 6|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 137 AQI US
|Thursday, Dec 7|
Unhealthy 153 AQI US
|Friday, Dec 8|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 131 AQI US
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Lucknow is the capital city of Uttar Pradesh, a state located in the northern region of India. It has some three and a half million people living there, making it extremely dense population wise. In terms of the levels of pollution in the city, they rank amongst some of the worst in the world, with year-round PM2.5 readings that have severe health consequences for its citizens to breathe.
In 2019, the readings of PM2.5 (particulate matter of 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter) came in at 90.3 µg/m³, putting it in the ‘unhealthy’ bracket, which requires a PM2.5 reading of anywhere between 55.5 to 150.4 µg/m³ to be classified as unhealthy. This yearly reading would make the air extremely unsafe for every portion of the population to breathe, with young children and the elderly or sick being particularly at risk.
This reading of 90.3 µg/m³ put it in 7th place out of all the cities ranked in India, and 11th place out of all cities ranked worldwide in 2019. With these statistics it is apparent that the air quality in Lucknow is not only unhealthy, but outright dangerous, with some months of the year skyrocketing even higher into the ‘very unhealthy’ bracket.
Going once again off the data recorded in 2019, the months that saw the worst levels of pollution in Lucknow were January and November, with extremely large spikes of PM2.5 showing up. January came in with a reading of 156.1 µg/m³, whilst November came in at 199.6 µg/m³. These are both within the very unhealthy bracket (requiring 150.5 to 250.4 µg/m³ to achieve this rating). November’s reading put Lucknow's air quality at over 20 times the World Health Organizations recommendation for safe air levels (0 to 10 µg/m³).
Whilst those two months were by far the worst out of the entire year, there were still others that had heavily elevated levels of pollution, with a few months of brief respite (albeit ones that still have unsafe levels of pollution). October and December both came in with unhealthy level readings, with 108.7 and 142 µg/m³ respectively. March through to June also all came in with unhealthy ratings, with only February and July achieving a ‘moderate’ ranking (35.5 to 55.4 µg/m³), making them the cleanest months of the year despite still having fairly high readings of 38.9 µg/m³ and 35.7 µg/m³.
For context, the city of Bangkok in Thailand had a yearly average of 22.8 µg/m³ over 2019. Bangkok is somewhat infamous for its pollution and haze levels, so for its average to come in lower than Lucknow's cleanest months show that there are some serious issues that need addressing. To recap, Lucknow's worst months are at the very beginning and end of the year.
Breathing the air in a city that sees PM2.5 numbers such as 199.6 µg/m³ would mean that there would be a serious risk for all people living there. Due to the incredibly small size of PM2.5 (approximately 3% of the size of a human hair) it is able to enter deep into the lung tissue and into the alveoli, whereby it can accumulate and cause all manner of respiratory and pulmonary diseases, or in worst case scenarios, actually cross the blood barrier via the tiny air sacs in the lungs and make their way into the circulatory system, causing damage to the blood vessels and increasing risks of cardiac events such as heart attacks, heart diseases and arrhythmias, all of which could prove fatal for the elderly, or crippling for those who are young and still developing.
Lung disorders such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can arise, with various forms of aggravated asthma, bronchitis and emphysema sitting under the COPD bracket. Mothers who are nursing unborn children can suffer from miscarriages, as well as babies being born prematurely or with low birth weight.
Damage to the hepatic and renal (liver and kidney) systems is not unheard of, due to their role in filtering contaminants out of the blood, as well as damage to the reproductive system being possible. These are but a few of the health issues associated with living in any city that sees high levels of pollution, and with Lucknow's exceptionally high numbers, there would be a myriad of other conditions to be seen if one were to delve into the large variety of pollutants that differ in concentration across different areas of the city (such as high levels of plastic fumes near a recycling factory having their own damage causing effects on the nervous system and other parts of the body).
There would be a number of offending causes of pollution in Lucknow, all working in tandem to create the large concentrations of PM2.5, PM10 and other toxic gases or chemical compounds. Pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) would be found in high concentrations all around the city, in particular around areas that see high levels of traffic as well as nearby industrial areas. The wide array of motorbikes, cars, trucks and buses that populate the road would all be putting out high amounts of nitrogen dioxide, particularly those running on diesel fuels. This type of fuel also happens to have higher levels of sulfur in it, which can contribute to acid rain.
These vehicles and factories that rely on the use of fossil fuel for energy can create noxious particles such as black carbon and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), both of which result from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and organic matter. Open burning sources would also contribute to this, with large amounts of garbage and refuse being set ablaze, despite being an illegal practice. Although this is not as prevalent in modern times, it is a practice that still takes place, particularly in poorer areas of the city where the citizens do not have to good fortune of proper access to garbage collection.
Observing the data from the last few years, Lucknow came in over 2017 with a PM2.5 average reading of 119.2 µg/m³, and then in 2018 with 115.7 µg/m³. When compared to the most recent yearly average of 2019, which came in at 90.3 µg/m³, it goes to show that Lucknow has made quite significant improvements in terms of its overall air quality. However due to the extremely high overall numbers, there would need to be critical changes to the ambient levels of year-round pollution for it to count as a marked improvement, and for its citizens to be able to breathe the air safely, free from the myriad of ill effects of living in the 11th most polluted city in the world.