Delhi Air Pollution: How to protect yourself?
Air pollution levels peaked this Diwali season in Delhi, sending alarms all across government establishment. At some places, PM 2.5 levels were 14 times the safe limits post Diwali. Though media reporting was primarily focused on Delhi, its surrounding areas like Faridabad & Noida were equally hit. Air Quality Index crossed 300 level in many parts in and around Delhi in the week following Diwali. The Air Quality Index (AQI) is indicative of the health impact the air pollution may have on health. While AQI beyond 100 starts affecting the sensitive group, beyond 150, everyone (including healthy individuals) is at risk. Older people, children and those suffering from respiratory or heart diseases are more vulnerable than other healthy individuals. Once AQI crosses 300, it is advisable to remain indoors. Though the pollution levels have come down since Diwali, the AQI remains “very unhealthy”. Let us see what we can do at individual level to protect our children and ourselves.
Many people living in polluted areas are aware of some general guidelines like avoiding physical exertion (in the form of exercise, or any work) in outdoor places, avoiding peak traffic areas, and using recycled air setting in the car air conditioners. However, you can do more to prevent the adverse impact of air pollution in the following way:
1. Anti-oxidant rich diet
When body is exposed to environmental pollution, there is an excessive free radical formation in the body, leading to imbalance between free radical and antioxidants. This state is termed as Oxidative Stress. Many studies suggest its role in cardiovascular diseases (anthersclerosis plaques formation in blood vessels), certain cancers (free radicals have been postulated to cause carcinogenesis) & inflammatory diseases (like arthritis)(1). Prominent anti-oxidants like Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Flavonoids and B-carotene play a vital role in prevention of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, Citrus fruits like oranges & lime (rich in Vitamin C), Nuts & green leafy vegetables (rich in Vit E), carrots, tomatoes, peaches, broccoli (rich in B-Carotene), green tea & coffee (rich in Flavonoids) provide excellent sources of anti-oxidants which prevent oxidative stress and therefore the adverse impact of environmental pollution on our bodies.
2. Masks (N95 & N99 masks)
Though most masks look similar, respiratory function varies and not all masks are suitable for air pollution. N95 and N99 masks can handle most of our pollution related needs. Respiratory filters that collect atleast 95% of the particles (including microbes, PM) are given 95% ratings, and those, which can collect 99%, are given 99 rating. The “N” in N95/N99 signifies that these masks are not oil resistant, which is fine for most practical situations. You may buy these masks online, or at your local chemist shop.
3. Keeping indoor air clean
There are multiple ways to keep indoor air clean, especially when the outside air is very polluted:
- You may consider buying indoor air purifiers. We recommend air purifiers with activated carbon filters, which is effective against chemicals, gases or viruses & High Efficiency Particulate Air filter (HEPA), which is effective against dust, allergen, bacteria, pollen and other Particulate Matters. However, we suggest you not to buy ozone producing air purifiers, as ozone is a serious health concern. Additionally, you should also consider the size of the room in which you intend to use air purifier.
- Use vacuum cleaner frequently to clean indoor surfaces and carpets.
- Do not allow anyone to smoke indoor
- You may consider buying indoor plants like Bamboo, Chrysanthemum, Golden Pothos (Money Plant), Aloe plant etc to keep your indoor air clean.
By following these steps, you can minimize the deadly impact of the poisonous air. However, a lot more efforts are required, both citizen and government level to curb this menace of pollution.