New Delhi: The air quality in the national capital dipped to the ‘very poor’ category with tests showing the presence of alarming levels of toxic heavy metals. According to a report by NGO Lung Care Foundation, titled ‘Death in Every Breath, results of at least seven air quality tests taken in New Delhi and Gurugram were analysed.

The report said, “The PM2.5 levels ranged from 90.3 micrograms/m3 to 563.5 micrograms/m3 and were between 1.5 and 9.4 times higher than standards prescribed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).”

While the levels of manganese exceeded the US EPA Reference Concentration for exposure to the metal, levels of lead also exceed the US EPA 3-month average for exposure to the same. There are no standards in India for manganese in ambient air, the report said.

Nickel levels in all the tests exceeded the World Health Organisation (WHO) annual health-based guidelines value of 0.0025 microgram/m3, which is based on the risk of cancer associated with long-term exposure to nickel.

Stating that all of the three metals, manganese, lead and nickel are neurotoxins which damage the brain, Arvind Kumar of Lung Care Foundation, said, “Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead. Exposures to even low levels of lead early in life have been linked to effects on IQ, learning, memory and behaviour. It is a matter of very serious concern that such high levels of these toxic metals are found in the air that our children breathe.”

“There is an urgent need for the policymakers to bring the focus back on the people and the health problems they are reporting to understand the impact of air pollution and its severity. People are the best monitors and they have been reporting severe health impacts already,” Kumar added.

The report also found high levels of barium.

On Thursday, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) issued show-cause notices to the Delhi Traffic Police, the Delhi Development Authority and two civic bodies for not taking adequate actions against complaints — to curb pollution in the national Capital — received on the Sameer app and social media accounts. The CPCB slapped a fine of Rs 1 crore each on three civic bodies of the city over open burning, dumping of waste, the illegal running of plastic industries in non-conforming residential areas.

The civic body in Gurugram has also been issued the same notice.