Dhaka's toxic air raising health risks, says Mayor Taposh

Public health risks are increasing at an alarming rate in Dhaka, which has recently been ranked as the most polluted cities in the world, Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh has said.

“Non-communicable diseases are a new concern for us. Such diseases as diabetes, heart disease and cancer are increasing alarmingly," the Dhaka South City Corporation mayor told a session on the second day of a scientific conference on non-communicable diseases or NCDs at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka on Thursday.

The mayor highlighted efforts, such as the construction of parks, hospitals, walking spaces and wide footpaths initiated by both city corporations to make the city healthier for its residents. 

"But unfortunately, Dhaka is the most polluted city in the world. Several health risks, including respiratory diseases, are increasing due to the toxic air in Dhaka," Taposh said.

According to data, the toxicity levels in Dhaka's air are currently on the rise. Apart from Dhaka, the air quality in many other parts of the country has been deteriorating and exceeding the danger limit in recent times.

The air quality rating is based on the amount of fine particulate matter (PM-10) and fine dust (PM2.5) in the atmosphere, which are measured in micrograms (parts per million-ppm) per cubic meter.

In addition to PM2.5 and PM10, the level of air pollution caused by sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone is also taken into account when determining the Air Quality Index (AQI) score. The AQI value is proportional to the amount of air pollution in a particular area.

For context, an Air Quality Index or AQI of 0-50 represents ‘good’ quality of air while 51-100 is considered ‘moderate’ and 101-150 is deemed ‘dangerous’. But the air quality is classified as ‘unhealthy’ when the PM reaches 150-200, ‘very unhealthy’ at 201-300 and ‘hazardous’ at 301-500.

When the AQI rating reaches hazardous levels, it could cause serious health problems for the entire population, leading to the issuance of health warnings.

Dhaka regularly ranks among the top on Swiss-based IQ AirVisual's list of the most polluted cities in the world.

The organisation's data showed the air in Dhaka was very unhealthy and dangerous on as many as 18 days this month. The highest level of air pollution was recorded on Jan 19, when the AQI was 363. The AQI in Dhaka soared up to 603 around 8am that day.

According to the US Embassy, the AQI in Dhaka rose to 642 on the same day. The embassy's air monitoring data also showed that the pollution level was very unhealthy and dangerous on 26 days in December.