Contributed by- Dr. Pooja Chaudhary
The smog engulfing the city may soon fade away but what about the continuous battle against the toxic air?
It is high time that we ask ourselves this question. India has an estimated death toll of 1.2 million people yearly due to air pollution. As per WHO, India has the world’s highest death rate resulting from asthma and chronic respiratory diseases. In Delhi, poor quality air damages the lungs of 50% of all children.
Delhi’s air pollution level has hit a new high this winter, leaving its people grasping for breath. The city is believed to have the worst air quality. Levels of PM 2.5 and PM 10 particulate matter hit 999 micrograms per cubic meter, while the safe limits for those pollutants are 60 and 100 respectively. Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said the smog on November 6 that converted Delhi into a gas chamber, was worse than the great London smog of 1952 which had caused around 4,000 premature deaths.
Pollution levels are so high in Delhi, its equal to smoking 50 cigarettes a day.
We all talk about air pollution and are genuinely concerned about this life threatening situation. But is it enough? Do we want our kids to breathe in this poison? It is important to know all about air pollution and the precautions to be taken to protect us, our loved ones and our environment. So, let us read.
What is air pollution?
Air pollution is the presence of toxic chemicals or compounds in the air, at levels that pose a health risk. The Ozone layer considered crucial for the existence of the ecosystems on the planet is depleting due to increased pollution. Global warming is a direct result of the increased imbalance of gases in the atmosphere and is considered the biggest threat that our world has ever faced. The smog that blankets the cities is a result of high air pollution combined with no-wind cold weather conditions.
Impact of air pollution on health
The dip in the air quality has posed serious health concerns (particularly in the children, the elderly and those living with certain health conditions such as lung diseases and asthma). The common health issues which are caused due to this toxic air are as follows:
- Burning sensation in the eyes
- Persistent cough
- Dryness in the throat
- Irritation in the nose
- Itchy skin
- Aggravation of lung diseases and asthma
- Increase blood pressure
- Higher risk of acute cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke
How to fight this battle?
The smog crisis has disrupted our lives. We all want answers to questions like what has to be done? How can we protect ourselves?
There are certain precautions that can be taken to ward off the air pollution effects. Few of them are listed below:
This has to be followed on an immediate basis as this is one of the most important precautions that needs to be taken. It is advisable to stay indoors till:
- Till the air quality gets betters
- Keep the kids and senior citizens indoor as they are the most sensitive
- Exercise at home and avoid going out for morning and evening walks
- If work-from-home is an option, then it is better to go for it
- Adjust the travel times and it is best to avoid going out during peak hours (early morning and late evenings) when the air pollution level is extremely high
It is suggested to stay covered as much as possible. It is best to wear full-sleeve clothes and make sure to wash hands and face every few hours.
Wear a pollution mask
It is important to cover your face using a good quality pollution mask. Most of the medical experts recommend N95 and N99 pollution mask as the most effective. If the mask is not available, a clean cloth should be used to cover the mouth.
Buy a good air purifier
If you have kids, elderly or asthma patients at home, then it is advisable to invest in a good air purifier. This should be a priority as the air inside our homes is not safe as well.
Eat healthy and drink plenty of fluids
There are a few things that we can add in our daily diets to boost our immunity and give relief to our respiratory system:
- Basil leaves
- Lots of water
There are certain breathing exercises, which if done on regular basis, can help in keeping away the toxic effects of these air pollutants.
- Pursed lip breathing : a breathing technique that consists of inhaling through the nose with the mouth closed and exhaling through tightly pressed or pursed lips.
- Belly breathing : sit or lie down, place one hand on the chest and the other below your rib cage, breathe in through your nose with your mouth closed and breathe out through your mouth.
A hot shower is also advisable to keep you safe from the harmful effects. A hot steamy shower daily may help in removing the toxins from your body. To attain optimal lung health benefits, you can add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to hot water and then inhale the steam. This acts as a natural purifier for the lungs.
Avoid the use of auto-rickshaws & two wheelers
Travelling by an auto-rickshaw increases your exposure to the toxic air. So it is best to try to avoid them as much as possible.
Increase the greenery
This is the most important step that should be practised to fight this battle. It is important to add more of indoor plants (money plant, aloevera, ficus etc) in your house, as it keeps the indoor air clean. Plant trees and work towards a greener and cleaner environment.
One of the major causes for air pollution is the fuel emissions. That is the reason it is suggested that:
- If the travel distance is not much, then wear a pollution mask or cover your mouth with a cloth and take a walk or ride a bicycle.
- If the distances are long, then it is advised to use various modes of public transport such as a bus or a metro or carpool.
It is time to take action and not act as a mere spectator, it is our world and we have to take care of it. So, stop blaming others and step up.
Let us pledge to be part of the solution not part of the pollution!
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