The onset of monsoon over Bangladesh has brought some good news for the residents of Dhaka gasping for clean air.

The air quality of the densely populated metropolis has now improved from ‘unhealthy’ to ‘moderate’ category.

With an air quality index (AQI) score of 76 at 12:15am on Thursday, Dhaka ranked 17th on the list of world cities with the worst air quality.

Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh, Chile’s Santiago, and South Korea’s Busan occupied the first, second and third spots, with AQI scores of 151, 141, and 134, respectively, in the list.

An AQI between 50 and 100 is considered ‘moderate’ with an acceptable air quality however; there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.

An AQI between 151and 200 is considered ‘unhealthy’ for everyone and members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.

Similarly, an AQI between 201 and 300 is said to be ‘poor’, while a reading of 301 to 400 is considered ‘hazardous’, posing serious health risks to residents.

AQI, an index for reporting daily air quality, is used by government agencies to inform people how clean or polluted the air of a certain city is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for them.

In Bangladesh, the AQI is based on five criteria pollutants—Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5), NO2, CO, SO2 and Ozone.

Dhaka has long been grappling with air pollution issues. Its air quality usually turns unhealthy in winter and improves during the monsoon.

A report by the Department of Environment (DoE) and the World Bank in March 2019 pointed out that the three main sources of air pollution in Dhaka “are brick kilns, fumes from vehicles and dust from construction sites”.

With the advent of winter, the city’s air quality starts deteriorating sharply due to the massive discharge of pollutant particles from construction work, rundown roads, brick kilns and other sources.

Air pollution consistently ranks among the top risk factors for death and disability worldwide. Breathing polluted air has long been recognised as increasing a person’s chances of developing a heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases, lung infections and cancer, according to several studies.

As per the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year, largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.