Bucket and a Bag Reveal New Air Air Toxins
Armed with little more than a special bucket
with two nozzles and a plastic bag, an entire community living near a Tamil
Nadu industrial area has monitored air pollution and come up with startling
data from across the nation that could become the basis of a campaign for
The Chennai-based community monitoring—its
data was released in the capital today—found 45 hazardous chemicals in 21 air
samples taken from 13 locations around the country between 2004-2006. Some
toxins were present in levels 32,000 times more than US Environment Protection
Agency (EPA) standards.
So far, India has standards for ambient air
for more obvious pollutants like oxides of carbon and nitrogen. No standards
exist for volatile organic compounds and sulphur gases although the Supreme
Court’s monitoring panel has kept asking the Government to set the norms.
The “bucket study” began with six villages of
Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore district near the SIPCOT industrial area. Villagers used
a device approved by the USEPA: A 25-litre bucket containing a three-litre
Tedlar bag with a mechanism to inflate it.
Once inflated with an air sample, the bag is
sealed and sent to a lab for analysis. Environmentalist Denny Larson, who
helped develop the device, has worked to promote this new technology in several
communities in the United States, Philippines and South Africa.
He founded the Global Community Monitor
(GCM), a non-profit organisation formed to equip affected people with the tools
and the knowledge necessary to fight pollution. In March 2004, Larson visited
Cuddalore to share skills on the bucket sampling with the SIPCOT Area Community
Environmental Monitors (SACEM). Between December 2003 and March 2004, GCM trained
these monitors to take air samples using this bucket. The samples were then
sent to a USEPA-certified lab in California for analysis.
Since then, 21 samples have been collected
including nine from SIPCOT Cuddalore and 12 from various locations around the
country ranging from industrial areas, landfills and municipal dumps in Delhi,
Gujarat, Kerala and Mumbai.
“These are new-age chemicals and India is yet
to set standards for them. This initiative is a welcome one. These communities
can shout, scream and kick the authorities into action,’’ said Sunita Narain,
releasing the report in the capital, who led the CNG campaign in the capital.
The key findings
• A total of 45 chemicals including 13 carcinogens were found like
acetone, toluene, chloroform, Methyl chloride and Benzene. These chemicals
target virtually every system in the body — eyes, central nervous system, skin
and respiratory system,
• At least 28 of the 45 chemicals found violate USEPA screening levels
• Dichloroethane found in downwind sample from one PVC effluent plant in
Mettur exceeded standards by 32,000 times.
•‘Industrial pollution regulation in the country focuses on stack
monitoring but the toxins we found are from pipe leakages, pumps and by pass
channels,’’ said Denny Larson of GCM.