Press Release

Air Pollution in North Chennai Raises Concern About TN’s Carbon Neutral Aspirations; Citizen Groups Call for Immediate Action

Chennai, 23 December 2022: Even as Tamilnadu scales up its climate targets and launches its mission to become “Carbon Neutral,” its climate claims are belied by long lingering problems of air pollution in the state’s largest industrial cluster in the Ennore-Manali region. 24-hour air samples taken from 13 sites in North Chennai contained toxic PM2.5 dust levels 1.2 to 4.3 times higher than the National Ambient Air Quality Standard of 60 µg/m3. The study carried out by the city-based environmental justice campaign Let Chennai Breathe focuses on north Chennai which the campaign describes as a site of environmental casteism owing to the high concentration of polluting industries clustered around an area with a high proportion of marginalised communities.

At 259.4 µg/m3 to 199.2 µg/m3, PM2.5 levels were highest in samples taken from residential buildings in Kodungaiyur (Near Garbage Dump) and Manali (Petrochem Industrial Estate). Such levels are categorised as “Very Unhealthy” by the US Environmental Protection Agency which advises “people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should avoid all physical activity.”Results from the other sampling sites, namely Thiruvottiyur, Chinna Mathur, Kasimedu, Kuruvimedu, Minjur, Seppakkam, Parrys Corner, Vyasarpadi, Athipattu, Burma Nagar and Kattukuppam had PM 2.5 levels ranging from 69.6 to 149.2 µg/m3. U.S. EPA considers these levels as “Unhealthy” triggering an advisory requiring “people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid all physical activity.”

Details of the level of PM2.5 and
heavy metals found in the filters.

The study which also analysed for metals found that all samples had silica levels higher than the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) annual average for exposure of 3 µg/m3. Manali showed the highest level of Silica. Coal ash, resuspended road dust and construction sand have high levels of crystalline silica and could be prominent contributors. Elevated levels of Nickel and Manganese were also found in 12 out of 13 samples.

“North Chennai is a site of environmental discrimination. Even the city’s Clean Air Plan ignores the dire situation in this region which is beset by pollution from 34 large hazardous industries, 3300 MW of coal-fired power plants, coal ash dumps, coal stacking yards and three ports and associated heavy vehicle traffic,” said Dr. Vishvaja Sambath of The Other Media, a member of the Let Chennai Breathe campaign. and the author of the study report “Unfit to Breathe.”

Communities in north Chennai are already facing a heightened risk of air pollution-related diseases. A report submitted by the Joint Experts Committee to the National Green Tribunal in April 2022 found that residents of north Chennai faced high cancer and non-cancer risk, with the risks being higher among children than adults. “Constant exposure to high levels of PM2.5 and heavy metals poses a serious public health threat to the communities residing in these regions. PM2.5 can penetrate the lung barrier and enter the blood system causing an increased risk of heart and respiratory diseases, premature mortality etc,” said Dr Hisamuddin Papa, Founder Chairman & Managing Director of Huma Specialists Hospital & Research Centre and Co-Chairman of Operations (South India) of Rotary India TB Control Programme.

Read the report here-

For more information, contact- Vishvaja S – +91 9629505983 | Durga M – +91 9384687523

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *