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Killer Methane not monitored, directly linked to increase in asthma

Representative Image (Image Source: New York Times)

By Suraj Radhakrishnan
Bangalore, September 22, 2016: The Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitor (CAAQM) collects minute-by-minute data of major air pollutants but no such monitoring method is in place for more harmful air toxins like methane and benzene. This does not match the standards set by World Health Organization.

The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) monitors the levels according to the new National Air Quality Index (AQI). There is no monitoring for methane or other harmful air toxins like benzene.

Most countries following standards set by EPA (Environment Protection Agency) and WHO have been monitoring these levels since 1990.

A study conducted by the Indian Journal of Pediatrics on the Epidemiology of Asthma in India states showed that in a broad group study of 20,000 children under 18, the percentage of asthma patients has gone up from 9 per cent to 36.5 per cent in a period between 1979 and 2006.

Children with persistent and chronic asthma grew from four per cent to 16 percent in the same period.

Graph of study released by the EPA of the impact of different pollutants. These are capable of causing several respiratory illnesses, primarily asthma. Methane ranks second only after serial killer, carbon-di-oxide.


While methane doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat. In the first two decades after its release, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. “We do not consider methane as a pollutant even. Why should we monitor?" says Scientific Officer of Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, Bangalore, Dr. B. Nagappa.

Graph shows a dramatic increase in methane in the past few years. It is directly proportional to increase in temperature and pulmonary illnesses.


“The Earth's atmospheric methane concentration has increased by about 150 per cent since 1750, and it accounts for 20 per cent of the total pollution caused by gases with a high period of presence in the environment. Methane breaks down in the atmosphere and creates CH3?? with water vapor. When methane breaks down, the water vapor produced also causes global warming. It’s a double whammy,” says Mr. S. Hebalikar, an environmentalist from Bangalore.

Current atmospheric methane levels are due to continuing human activity.

India has 12 cities now more polluted than Beijing, which until just a few years ago was the global leader in air toxicity.

Bangalore too has seen a steep increase in the number of asthma cases because of air toxins in children from ages 6 to 17 according to a study conducted by the HEAL foundation study in major cities in India. Bangalore came second after Delhi with 36 percent of children suffering from asthma.

With all these studies linking directly to the increase in air pollution, there is still no comprehensive data available for what air toxins contribute to this. This shows a clear negligence and lack of knowledge. There are several pollutants that require constant analysis to help prevent such lung condition in children in India.


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