Delhi Air Pollution: How to Safeguard Yourself from the Toxic Smog
By: Muskan Sharma
Every year as the merrymaking and jamboree of the festive season dwindles, reports of the air over the National Capital Region (NCR) and neighbouring states being choked in smog take over the airwaves.
Bursting firecrackers despite the Supreme Court orders, coupled with the recent increase in farm fires, has worsened the air quality index (AQI) over the NCR, says a report by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) which concludes, “Levels of pollutants rose sharply from Thursday night onwards, as people violated the ban on firecrackers.”
On Friday, around 10 Haryana cities reported an AQI of over 400, categorised “severe” by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Times of India learned. According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), the AQI of Delhi (overall) stood at 437, wherein the concentration of PM 2.5 was 318. At the same time, the level of PM 10 was reported to be 448.
What is smog?
Smog is a hazy brown blanket of polluted air that envelopes the skyline and lowers visibility. It is created when certain pollutants, known as “ozone precursors,” react in heat and sunlight to form ozone. When inhaled, even at shallow levels, it can cause several respiratory health problems.
According to the World Health Organisation, one-third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer, and heart disease are from air pollution.
How can smog affect your health?
Exposure to smog can lead to several health issues, such as:
Irritation in the eyes, nose, throat, chest
Aggravated respiratory diseases such as emphysema, bronchitis and asthma
Wheezing, chest pain, dry throat, headache or nausea
Reduced resistance to infections
Dr Manoj Sharma, a senior consultant of internal medicine, Fortis Hospital, said to The Indian Express, “As soon as one is exposed to pollution, they can experience irritation in the eyes, light-headedness, headache, dizziness, skin irritation, cough and breathlessness. With the air likely to remain polluted in the coming days, it’s advisable to take precautions and not venture outside unless absolutely necessary. Children and the elderly, especially, need to be careful as the pollution can manifest itself in numerous health problems.”
Dr Sharma also added that certain micropollutants, which are very small in size, can even enter the blood vessels and disseminate in the entire body. Thus, pollution can affect every part of the human body, including the brain, heart and kidney.
How to safeguard yourself from toxic smog?
1. Use face masks when outdoor
COVID-19 has made us aware of the critical role face masks play in keeping harmful substances at bay. N95/99 masks are a must whenever you step out.
2. Refrain from early morning walks
One of the main reasons early morning walks are considered beneficial is the excellent air quality in the morning. But it’s futile when smog or “ground-level ozone” lingers over the air. So, activities like walking and jogging could be deferred until the smog settles.
3. Air purifying plants
Air purifying plants such as aloe vera, ivy and spider plant can be placed in homes and offices as they help purify indoor air and minimise pollution.
4. Restrict outdoor activities for kids
Since children and the elderly are the most sensitive to air pollution, outdoor activity must be limited to only when it is absolutely unavoidable.
5. Diet rich in vitamin C, omega fatty acids
Consuming fruits rich in vitamin C, magnesium and foods rich in Omega Fatty Acids has been scientifically proved to be highly beneficial. A healthy dietary regimen will enable you to beat the evil impacts of contamination by keeping your immune system in check.
6. Ventilate your home
Open your windows and doors between 3 pm - 5 pm and allow the air to circulate. On a bright sunny day, this is the time slot when the concentration of PM 2.5 is the lowest in the air.
7. Purify your car air
When you start your car in the morning, roll down your window to let the air circulate. Next, run car AC in indoor circulation mode, which will reduce the PM 2.5 level considerably.
8. Take steam daily
Taking steam at least once a day can be beneficial as it helps relax your air passages and remove harmful substances that enter the body before they start affecting your immune system.
9. Jaggery to detoxify
Eat jaggery to flush out contamination from your lungs. You can essentially have it crude or supplant it with sugar in your daily nourishment.
10. Use of air purifiers
Various health professionals believe that air indoors can be just as harmful as the air outdoors. Air purifiers can refresh stale air, reducing the chances of health issues caused by indoor pollutants, which can trigger respiratory infections or aggravate symptoms in people with asthma. Quality air purifiers eliminate several types of indoor air pollutants, keeping us healthy.
What can we do to reduce air pollution?
On an individual level, we can contribute to curbing air pollution in the following ways:
Refraining from bursting firecracker
Organise and condense errands into one trip
Using public transport more often
Minimise usage of Air Conditioners
“You have to see the air quality a day before and after Diwali. It is enough to show that firecrackers do exhibit their colour in the thick, dense fog that covers the city,” said Hemant Kaushal, project coordinator of IIT Delhi’s Arun Duggal Centre of Excellence for Research in Climate Change and Air Pollution to The Print.
Indian Meteorological Department and the Delhi Pollution Control Board records show that AQI shot up to toxic levels each Diwali in the past five years.
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