New Delhi, Jan 14: A scientific analysis done by Greenpeace India has found "high and alarming" levels of cancer causing heavy metals inside the classrooms of different schools across Delhi between October to November last year.
Noting an "urgent" need for a comprehensive regional clean action plan to reduce air pollution in the north Indian region, the green body asserted that till such measures are initiated, the government should take precautionary steps including shutting schools.
The Greenpeace India report released today showed that the samples collected and tested inside the classrooms had alarming levels of heavy metal presence on days when PM 2.5 concentrations were higher than the prescribed levels.
"PM 2.5 concentrations from monitors installed inside the classrooms showed indoor air quality five times above the Indian safety limits and as much as 11 times above the World Health Organisation's safety limits, taking the average to 293 (µg/m3).
"The same samples when tested for elemental composition of PM2.5 showed the presence of dangerous levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and nickel which are carcinogenic and detrimental to health," the green NGO said.
It said that the five samples tested contained one or more metal at a concentration higher than the respective limit or guideline value for annual average metal concentrations in the air set either by the government or World Health Organisation (WHO).
Cadmium and arsenic concentrations were higher than the prescribed standards (Indian/WHO) in 70 per cent and 40 per cent of the schools respectively.
Noting that the detected heavy metals such as lead and manganese are neurotoxic and affect the cognitive and motoric development of children in particular, the green body reiterated that arsenic, cadmium, nickel and chromium (VI) are carcinogenic.
"The result signifies that schoolchildren are exposed to exceeding levels of heavy metals that increase the risk of cancer and developmental problems. Higher the PM 2.5 concentrations higher will be the exposure to heavy metals.
"Most of these particles are attached to the anthropogenic impacts caused due to fossil fuel (coal and oil) burned for energy and transportation sector," said Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner, Greenpeace India.