Delhi is shrouded in a sickening, soupy, silver haze. Currently, the level of air pollution in the capital is unprecedented.
Yet, last year an evocative opinion piece on the impact of hazardous levels of pollution in the capital by New York Times’ South Asia Correspondent, upset many Indians. Turns out Gardiner Harris, the journalist who shifted back to Washington to save his son’s ailing lungs, was quite right and quite wise.
Post this Diwali and post the miserable failure of the anti-cracker campaign, Delhiites are collectively gasping for breath.
More than two days after Diwali, the toxic PM 2.5 concentrations are still about 315 micrograms/metre cube concentration in Delhi, 12 times worse than the standard set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
FYI, the WHO recommends that PM 2.5 is kept below 10 as an annual average. Exposure to average annual concentrations of PM 2.5 of 35 or above is linked with a 15% higher long-term death risk. How’s that for a Diwali horror story?
This Is What Delhi Is Currently Waking Up To
Here’s What This Choking Pollution Is Doing To You
There are a lot of studies which show that heart patients can get fresh attacks, it can worsen asthma and other breathing ailments in healthy people, reduce your lungs’ ability to take in oxygen, make it fatal for people suffering from COPD.
A study on the pollution-health link done in Beijing, also notorious for toxic smog found that when air pollution was curtailed during the 2008 Olympics, residents became considerably healthier. Several biomarkers in their blood associated with heart diseases dropped dramatically.
The study estimated that if these anti-pollution measures were taken permanently, the lifetime risk of lung cancer for the Chinese would be cut in HALF – a risk that has spiked by a whopping 56 percent in the last decade, even as smoking rates have come down dramatically.
The horror of Diwali pollution isn’t going to tide over in a day or two, the November nip in the air and the low wind speed is continuing to extend the suspension of such pollutants near the ground.
Now you can’t stop breathing, migrate to Antarctica, or be chained inside your air purified homes till the city clears up the haze, so what precautions should you take?
Can’t Live Under a Rock During Bad Air Days? Here’s How You Can Cope With Delhi’s Dirty Air
Stay indoors as much as possible but since offices don’t give pollution leaves, not yet, so:
1. Invest In a Good Quality Face Mask
With the winter setting in, it’s going to be tough months for your lungs in the capital. Buy a good quality pollution mask, the one that seals your face, comes with an active carbon layer, a valve which opens and shuts as you exhale and inhale. Try Vogmask, 3M or N95 but don’t order these online because you need to be sure of the fitting, if it’s leaving a gap against your face, it’s pretty useless. Needless to say, the Rs 5 cloth mask doesn’t cut it, so don’t bother using that one.
2. Air Purifiers Work – Invest In Them Only If You Can Cover the Whole House
If you can afford the installation and electric cost of putting air purifiers in your whole house, nothing like it. If not, it’s pretty useless to buy one bulky purifier for the living room and breathe toxic air in the rest of the house.
3. Don’t Exercise, Limit Outdoor Activity
Those pictures you see of people braving the thick smog of nearly zero visibility but still continuing with their morning jog? That’s not being fitness conscious, that’s being stupid. The damage which pollution can do to your body is much worse than the benefits of exercise. Children and elderly should especially watch out!
4. Use Apps To Stay Updated
Usually a look outside your window will give you an idea of how good or bad things are, but don’t rely sorely on your judgement. The current noxious air is predicted to linger this whole week but stay updated with apps like SAFAR, Change the Air, and avoid outdoors if it’s crazy toxic.
I have friends who drive to nearby ‘cleaner’ areas from the capital during many weekends. See if this is doable. They say, it’s to ‘wash the lungs’.
Related Read: Air Quality 'Severe' In Delhi, Post Diwali