Air pollution in Australia’s capital city has become extremely hazardous to humans. Pollution levels of PM2.5 particles which are detrimental to human health briefly reached 7,700 at one Canberra monitoring station on Jan 1, according to The Guardian, the highest in the world at the time and 38 times the level considered hazardous in Australia. In Sydney, PM2.5 particle pollution had peaked at 2,500 in early December when the city was blanketed in smoke.
As far as daily averages go, Canberra reached a PM2.5 particle concentration of 612 on Jan 6, still three times the level considered hazardous. The reading provided by the World Air Quality Index website was far above those of notoriously polluted cities in India like Delhi (where levels reached a high of 276 in January) or Delhi satellite city Gurgaon, the most polluted city in the world in 2018 (where pollution levels reached 300 in late December).
While Canberra levels were down to 79 on Wednesday, the preliminary average for Thursday was back up to 162, indicating very poor air quality. While Australian cities have only experienced severe pollution recently, many Indians have been exposed to poor air regularly over the years, with some cities averaging annual PM2.5 levels of 100-130. Nevertheless, even short periods of exposure to hazardous air can lead to health complications, especially for people with pre-existing conditions. Australian doctors are expecting hospital admissions to rise as a result.
PM2.5 refers to the concentration of particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers. These particles are of most concern to human health because they can linger in the air for long periods of time and are easily inhaled.