Run for health during Delhi marathon amidst very high air pollution exposure

  • CSE releases the  results of its exposure air quality monitoring during Delhi marathon event today
  • Finds  unacceptable level of exposure to trapped pollutants typical of winter months
  • Delhi needs a  combination of long lasting reforms as well as a contingent plan to clean up  its air 

New Delhi, November 29, 2015: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) carried out exposure monitoring during the Delhi marathon event in Central Delhi today and found unacceptable level of exposure to tiny particles – PM2.5. It is ironical that the marathon events aimed at promoting active and healthy lifestyle among citizens is at serious risk of exposing participants to very high exposure to pollution as these are largely held after the onset of winter when cool and calm weather conditions trap pollutants very close to ground level and cause very high exposure.

This has a specific significance in the context of sporting events like the marathon as athletes have to perform to potential, especially in extreme endurance events and they need clean air. With every breath, athletes typically take in 10 to 20 times as much air, and thus pollutants, as sedentary people. Delhi faces serious pressures to clean up its air this winter. Cutting these levels will need scale, stringency and frenetic pace of action, says CSE.

What has CSE found?

CSE carried out real-time exposure monitoring during the marathon event (0830-1100 am) along the stretches at India Gate, Rashtrapati Bhawan, Rajpath, Shahjahan Road, Khan Market and Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. This monitoring is different from the ambient monitoring that the government does. CSE’s exposure monitoring captures the pollution on road and roadside within our breathing zone. This normally records higher levels than the ambient level that is monitored by Delhi Pollution Control Committee. However, the trends correlate.

High real-time exposure to tiny particles while running: The exposure to the average PM2.5 during the event was as high as 1,210 micro grams per cubic metre during the marathon period. During this time, the real-time exposure of runners was more than four times higher than the average background ambient air quality level at the closest station in Mandir Marg that was being monitored by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee. Winter inversion has aggravated this trend. CSE analysis has already shown that during November, pollution levels in morning hours have usually remained higher than the afternoon.

Local leaf burning in Lutyen’s Delhi spiked the peak exposure during marathon: It is ironical that while efforts were made to minimize traffic in the targeted area, errant leaf burning episodes were not controlled. CSE monitoring encountered smoke plume from leaf burning on Shahjahan Road. Close to it, the PM2.5 levels peaked to a staggering height of 7220 micro grams per cubic metre. This shows that even when vehicles were off the road leaf burning in Lutyen’s Delhi – the area of rich and powerful – was contributing profusely to local pollution and exposure during marathon.

Exposure levels doubled during the hour immediately after the marathon was over and traffic volume increased: Immediately after the marathon event was over the exposure doubled as the vehicle numbers increased on the road.

City-wide official ambient monitoring done by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee shows significant build up of overall ambient pollution level over the last few days: CSE has also analysed the DPCC’s city-wide ambient average PM2.5 level for the last four days that shows significant increase in ambient levels. The 24 hour average PM2.5 level on November 24-25 (6am to 6am) of PM2.5 was 134 microgramme per cum. The levels on November 28-29th (6am to 6am) had increased by nearly 86 per cent since November 24-25.

-- All the four days are in very poor air quality category of national air quality index.   

-- The 24 hour city average (DPCC monitoring stations) on November 28-29 has been four times the standards.

Get ready

This winter will require nearly day-to-day and hour-to-hour pollution management for public health protection. Delhi has come under increasing pressure not only to lower the pollution spikes but also to meet air quality standards. CSE recommendations include: 

  • Immediate roll out of the action agenda for winter pollution management. Target all sources of pollution. Reduce traffic volume, cut down pollution from open burning, construction and power plants.  
  • Delhi needs daily health alert and contingency plan during severely polluted days


For further information, please contact Anupam Srivastava,, 9910093893

Tags: Health,