Chemists highlighted that 7,800 deaths occurred per annum owing to air pollution, half of which was estimated as being due to indoor air pollution.
Air pollution levels have risen due to the increasing number of vehicles on the roads. The air pollution levels in Kandy have been found to be higher than that of Colombo. Indoor air pollution affects rural households due to their use of firewood for cooking. Worldwide, the annual figure for deaths occurring due to air pollution is 8 million according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 4.3 million of which is due to air pollution inside homes.
Former Professor at the Department of Chemistry of the Faculty of Science of the University of Peradeniya, Emeritus Prof. O.A. Ileperuma explained that the air quality was measured by the presence of fine particles (a fraction of atmospheric particulate matter 2.5).
In Colombo, Sri Lanka, the figure is 3.6 times the aforementioned amount, he noted.
He further explained that apart from the burning of biomass, the burning of incense sticks and mosquito coils too played a role.
An Indian study has revealed that the burning of a mosquito coil resulted in the release of fine particles of an amount similar to the release of fine particles resulting from when 100 cigarettes are lit. Also, large quantities of fine particles are released during the burning of incense sticks.
“These are highly toxic organic compounds with aromatic hydrocarbons which when burned are well known to be carcinogens. There can be chronic effects. Subjects can develop cancer. The WHO informed that diesel exhaust fumes were class one carcinogens.
People must be knowledgeable of the facts. Only preventive measures such as not cooking with firewood in a congested kitchen and instead cooking outside the main house in an open kitchen can be taken. For babies, incense sticks and mosquito coils are highly dangerous. If for religious reasons incense sticks are being burned, then it should be done outside the main house,” Prof. Ileperuma added.