Exposure of infants to outdoor and indoor air pollution in low-income urban areas - A case study of Delhi

Indoor air pollution is potentially a very serious environmental and public health problem in India. In poor communities, with the continuing trend in biofuel combustion coupled with deteriorating housing conditions, the problem will remain for some time to come. While to some extent the problem has been studied in rural areas, there is a dearth of reliable data and knowledge about the situation in urban slum areas. The microenvironmental model was used for assessing daily-integrated exposure of infants and women to respirable suspended particulates (RSP) in two slums of DelhiFone in an area of high outdoor pollution and the other in a less polluted area. The study confirmed that indoor concentrations of RSP during cooking in kerosene-using houses are lesser than that in wood-using houses. However, the exposure due to cooking was not significantly different across the two groups. This was because, perhaps due to socioeconomic reasons, kerosene-using women were found to cook for longer durations, cook inside more often, and that infants in such houses stayed in the kitchen for longer durations. It was observed that indoor background levels during the day and at nighttime can be exceedingly high. We speculate that this may have been due to resuspension of dust, infiltration, unknown sources, or a combination of these factors. The outdoor RSP levels measured just outside the houses (near ambient) were not correlated with indoor background levels and were higher than those reported by the ambient air quality monitoring network at the corresponding stations. More importantly, the outdoor levels measured in this study not only underestimated the daily-integrated exposure, but were also poorly correlated with it.

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