comscore Delhi air pollution: Dos and don’ts to ensure you can breathe freely

Delhi air pollution: Dos and don’ts to ensure you can breathe freely

Amid pollution and smog, here are some tips to breathe fresh air in Delhi.


Air quality in general and indoor air, in particular, has become a matter of serious concern across India. Festival seasons like Diwali see a sharp rise in the levels of air pollution. Post-Diwali the level of pollutants like SO2, NO2 as well as particulate matter smaller than 10 meter (PM2.5 and PM 10) rise almost seven to eight times higher than the standard level. Also Read - Top mobile apps to track air quality and pollution

Also Read - Pollution meters for measuring real-time air quality index starting from Rs 16,995

The levels of these particulate matters, especially PM2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers), have serious health implications as these tend to get lodged in the lung and can even enter the bloodstream. Another fact we often forget is that, indoor air i.e air inside our homes and offices can be actually 2 to 5 times more1 polluted than outside. You may be shocked to learn that some of the most commonly used household products can cause indoor air to be so polluted. Paints, disinfectants, moth repellents, air fresheners, stored fuels, office copiers and printers, human skin and hair, cooking and even dry-cleaned clothing could contribute to poor indoor air quality. Also Read - Air pollution rising in Delhi NCR: How to check air quality index in real-time

Apart from this, the location of your home and certain activities inside can decide the level of indoor air pollution inside. If your home has construction activity nearby, is close to a running road, or if you have household pets it is very likely that you have high concentrations of particulate matter – PM2.5 and PM10.

According to WHO 4.3 million2 premature deaths take place annually due to prolonged exposure to indoor air pollution. Exposure to bad air quality may lead to initial symptoms like coughing, irritation in eyes, asthma or wheezing, tiredness. But prolonged exposure, in the long run, may have serious consequences on our health like stroke, Ischemic heart disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and even lung cancer. ALSO READ: Delhi air pollution: Here s how the Xiaomi Mi Air Purifier 2 has helped me

Though everyone is affected by indoor air pollution, certain types of people are more susceptible. Infants are the worst affected as they stay indoors most of the time and also breathe more per minute than adults do. Young children, aged persons, patients of asthma, allergies or repeated respiratory infections are affected badly due to the breathing of PM2.5 and PM10. In fact, as most of us stay indoors 90% of the time, either at home or at office, exposure to poor indoor air quality can be very damaging. The key to maintaining your health is reducing your time of exposure to poor air quality, and one way of doing that is by ensuring better air quality indoors. ALSO READ: Delhi pollution high levels increase sales of air purifiers

It has become necessary for individuals to now actively monitor air quality levels – in their cities and in their homes. You can refer to online resources like AQI index online to know the level of PM2.5 in your city and invest in PM2.5 indicators available in the market to monitor the same in your home.

Apart from this, you can follow these tips to stay healthy in light of the deteriorating air quality across the country:

Clean the indoor air:

It is a good idea to invest in some mechanism for cleaning air at home or office. There are products on the market today which can be used with your existing wall-mounted AC to clean the air of PM2.5 without the filter taking any extra space or running cost. Running it even one hour per day is an effective way to keep the air cleaner. Alternately, you may invest in an air purifier for your home and office.

Wear respirators (not masks) when outdoors

Respirators are designed to help reduce the wearer s respiratory exposure to airborne contaminants i.e particles that are small enough to be inhaled – particles less than 100 microns ( m) in size. This includes airborne particles like PM2.5 / PM10. A respirator rated N95(NIOSH Approved) filters out more than 95% of particles (PM) larger than 0.3 microns that s much smaller even than PM2.5 microns. This is a goodthing, since most of air pollution s bad health effects are caused by particles 2.5 microns and smaller. ALSO READ: Delhi government launches Swachh Delhi app to curb pollution

Surgical masks, on the other hand, do not have either adequate filtering or fitting attributes to provide respiratory protection for the wearer. They are designed to help prevent contamination of the work environment or sterile field from large particles generated by the wearer (e.g. spit, mucous). Surgical masks may also be used to help reduce the risk of splashes or sprays of blood, body fluids, secretions and excretions from reaching the wearer s mouth and nose.

Please refer to the below-mentioned pointers that explain the difference between respirators and masks.

Particulate Respirators

  • Filter particles from the air when properly fitted, helping reduce the number of particles or germs the wearer breathes in. Ideal for protection from PM2.5 and PM10
  • Have the word NIOSH / EN and the approval type (i.e. N95; N99; FFP3 etc.) printed on the product
  • Are secured tightly to the face, with 2 head straps and a nose adjustable clip over the nose to allow for a more custom fit
  • Additional comfort can be provided by an exhalation valve fitted on these respirators which prevents the build-up of Hot and Humid exhaled air inside the respirator during breathing

Surgical Masks

  • Meant for use as a surgical mask by a surgeon in a clean room (e.g. An operation theater) but are NOT designed to protect your lungs from airborne hazards like PM2.5 or PM10
  • Do not have the word NIOSH / EN and the approval type (i.e. N95; N99; FFP3 etc) printed on the product
  • Help prevent large particles expelled by the wearer (surgeon), such as spit or mucous, from entering the environment. If the wearer coughs or sneezes, the surgical mask will help collect the larger particles expelled
  • Do not fit tightly to the face as there might be gaps around the edges

Comfort Masks

  • These are just meant to cover the nose and mouth of a person to give him comfort while breathing but are NOT designed to protect your lungs from airborne hazards like PM2.5 or PM10
  • Do not have the word NIOSH / EN and the approval type (i.e. N95; N99; FFP3 etc) printed on the product
  • Have not been tested to any government performance standards for filtration. Usually have only 1 head strap
  • Do not fit tightly to the face as there might be gaps around the edges

Stay away from fire-crackers

Bombs, flower pots and wheels produce a lot of smoke with chemicals like potassium, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide which can set off wheezing or coughing, especially in those prone to allergic infections.

Avoid outdoor exercises

Breathing heavily during that cardio workout will draw pollution deeper into the lungs, increasing the chances of respiratory ailments. Hence, monitor AQ in your locality or city and avoid outdoor exercise at least until levels drop below the prescribed limit. Even allergic cough and breathing problems in little children can be averted by spending the evening indoors.

Keep medicines handy and consult your doctor (if necessary)

The best way to deal with polluted indoor air is to keep it clean. However, you must never ignore sustained symptoms. Keep your allergy kit ready with the required medicines, inhalers and nebulizers in case you have a family member with respiratory illness. If you develop symptoms like a persistent cough, running nose and, headache, do consult a doctor. People with asthma can increase their medication and should immediately consult their doctor if their symptoms worsen.

The author is subject matter expert, 3M Asia Pacific Region.

  • Published Date: November 12, 2017 3:51 PM IST
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