Poisonous fumes choke Chennai

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sanjay Pinto


Chennai: Every morning hundreds of people in Chennai walk or jog along the Marina Beach in order to breathe, what they think is fresh air. Hardly a kilometer away an NGO has recorded an alarming level of Hydrogen Sulphide.


The dangerous fume is more than a thousand times the permissible limit near the Madras University, Island Grounds and the MLA Hostel Complex.


This toxic industrial gas is emanating from the Cooum and Buckingham Canal and has a distinct odour of rotten eggs. The poisonous fumes are known to affect the respiratory and central nervous systems.


Flagstaff House, along the Northern Bank of the Cooum, is where Sulphur Dioxide was found to be five times above normal, owing to vehicular emissions. Long term exposure to the same can cause diseases like asthma and bronchitis.


Driving past north Chennai into the industrial belt of Manali, one can’t escape Ammonia, a common gas for industrial use, which can lead to unconsciousness and convulsions. Here it was almost seven times above the safe limit.


“There’s no monitoring to control the emission of these chemicals,” said Sweta Narayan, Co-ordinator, Community Environmental Monitoring.


Three months ago, following a gas leak from a petro chemical company in Manali, air samples revealed the presence of 26 volatile organic compounds. Among them, Benzene, known to cause leukemia, was 36 times above the safe limit.


The NGO’s findings may be alarming but the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board refuses to comment.


What’s even more shocking is the fact that officials here say that the government is yet to prescribe standards for the monitoring of Volatile Organic Compounds.


The Pollution Control Board doesn’t remember the last time an emission check of vehicles was done in the city.


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Poisonous fumes choke Chennai
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