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Wildfires make the air in Uttarakhand deadly | India News


NAINITAL: For days, the forests of Uttarakhand have been ablaze, turning the air over the pristine mountain state deadly. Levels of black carbon, or soot, have skyrocketed six times, while ozone has tripled, both going directly from safe to dangerously toxic levels within a week.
By Friday, black carbon levels had risen from about 1,000-2,000 micrograms per cubic meter last month, before the fires started, to 10,000-12,000 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The concentration of ozone, which used to be around 40-45 parts per billion back then, has risen to 110-115 parts per billion now. The safe threshold for black carbon in air is 3,000 to 4,000 micrograms per cubic meter, while that for ozone is 40 to 50 parts per billion with an hourly range of 80 and an eight-hour average range of 60. High content of black carbon and ozone in the air can cause complications, from chest pain to coughing, irritation and, in case of prolonged exposure, damage to the heart and lungs.
“Black carbon is released during the incomplete combustion of fuels. Ozone is produced when poisonous gases like carbon monoxide react with sunlight, ”said Professor Manish Naja, head of the atmospheric sciences division at the Aryabhatta Observational Sciences Research Institute (ARIES) at Nainitalhe told TOI. “The unusually high concentration of these gases means that the air is becoming more polluted and the main reason is the forest fire.”
While forest fires always rage across Uttarakhand at this time of year, the scale of destruction this time has been much greater. Few post-monsoon rains and no snowfall this winter have fueled hell. “The pollution levels themselves indicate the severity of the fires,” Naja said.
And even these numbers are conservative estimates. “The ARIES campus, where the data was recorded, is a few kilometers from Nainital. Pollution levels in the city and other areas closer to the fire would be much higher, ”Naja said. “We will conduct a detailed study to document the effect of forest fires and the pollution they cause.”

Times of India