I stopped running during winters two years back post the bad bout of cough that I experienced right after running Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. Last two or three years, the air quality is only getting worse with no respite whatsoever. I attended a very informative session on air pollution recently and thought of sharing what I think is really important for one to know specially if live in North.
First things first, we often assume that indoor air must be safe and healthy for us if we can’t see or smell anything indicating otherwise. Truth is, there are a lot of hidden factors affecting the quality of our air and indoor air can be way more polluted than outdoors.
Secondly, I didn’t understand what clearly what PM meant. “PM” refers to particulate matter—particles in the air. PM2.5 is dust that is measured as being finer than the size of 2.5 microns, whereas PM10 is dust that is finer than 10 microns. The difference between PM 10 and PM 2.5 is size. Those particles are things like organic dust, airborne bacteria, construction dust, and coal particles from power plants. PM2.5 is 30 times smaller than hair. Needless to say, that it is able to move thousands of kilometres in the air and is harmful to people.
I have over heard people saying that we Indians have a very high immunity but you can’t fight pollution with immunity. Also, eating gur helps in building a layer of mucus in the throat but doesn’t protect us from PM2.5. We really need to brace ourselves and take it seriously. Some short-term symptoms are similar to how we feel when we’re coming down from a cold: Coughing and sneezing, Dizziness, Headaches, Fatigue, Nausea, Sinus congestion, Dryness and irritation of your eyes, nose, throat and skin, Shortness of breath, Watery eyes, Asthma is aggravated or worsened. It’s the long-term impact which is scary and can lead to respiratory diseases, heart conditions and even cancer.
There doesn’t seem to be any immediate respite which means the onus is on us to take the right precautions. And yes, air purifiers are selling by loads but it’s not a marketing gimmick. I installed an air purifier in one of the rooms in my house and it does make a difference but they are expensive. Here are a few affordable things one can do –
1) Plants like Snake plant, Boston Fern and Bamboo Palm purify air. Adding potted plants to a room has been shown to reduce the amount of air particulates.
2) Check the AQI regularly. An air quality index (AQI) is a number used by government agencies to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is forecast to become. Thankfully, there are many apps now to check the same.
3) Use 3M Electrostatic AC Filters are designed to complement the existing filtering screen of your wall mounted air conditioners to enable it to remove PM2.5 and other MicroParticle pollutants from the air inside your home so you can clean your air. During winters the AC can be put on fan mode. This is by far the cheapest way as it converts the existing ACs in to air purifiers. You can read how to use it on the link below. They need to be changed once in approx. 3 months.
4) By far the toughest one is to use the respirator mask on a regular basis and one should use it based on AQI. There is a huge difference between a surgical mask and a respirator mask. Surgical masks are used as a physical barrier to protect the user from hazards, such as splashes of large droplets of blood or body fluids whereas Respirators are designed to help reduce the wearer’s respiratory exposure to airborne contaminants such as particles, gases, or vapours. They come in various sizes and styles, and should be individually selected to fit the wearer’s face and to provide a tight seal. A respirator will be marked with its approval rating (e.g., N95, N100, etc). 3M respirator masks made of simple non-woven technology can used for a period of 2-3 months (needs to be discarded when you feel uncomfortable in it) but they have to be stored properly when not in use.
It’s unfortunate that our cities have “Poor” or worse AQ thoughout the year, not just around Diwali! We are in a position where we are having to take these measures because we don’t have much choice and we need to do the best we can to protect our families. Also, 3M is offering free home Air Quality Check on first come first serve basis, so do fill this form if you want to experience the same.