New Delhi: Delhi is covered in poisonous haze for the sixth day in a row, causing a massive public health crisis. The air quality continued to be in a’severe’ category on Thursday (November 9). The national capital’s Air Quality Index (AQI) stood at 420 today, compared to 426 the previous day, according to the news agency PTI. The AQI map prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board showed clusters of red dots (indicating hazardous air quality) spread across the Indo-Gangetic plains.
Neighbouring Ghaziabad (369), Gurugram (396), Noida (394), Greater Noida (450), and Faridabad (413) also reported very bad air quality.
As per recent updates, the Delhi government has decided to reschedule the winter break to November 9–18. Earlier, the break started on November 3–10.
Delhi’s air quality is one of the worst in the world. According to a University of Chicago report, air pollution reduces life expectancy by almost 12 years.
The air pollution in Delhi has reached crisis levels in recent years, and its effects on health are not unknown. The effects of air pollution have been linked to allergies, respiratory conditions, birth malformations, an increasing incidence of cancer, and much more.
Speaking to NDTV, Dr Arvind Kumar, chairman of the Institute of Chest Surgery at Medanta, talked about the impact of prolonged exposure to air pollution, who is more vulnerable, and what are the measures that citizens can follow to protect themselves.
Talking about the ‘severe’ air quality that the city has been witnessing, Dr Kumar said,
AQI is derived from the value of six particulate and gaseous matter in the air. The main factor is PM2.5. It is the most damaging of all the particles. PM2.5 passes the nose and throat barrier, goes into the lungs, gets deposited there, and gets absorbed into the blood. PM2.5 and smaller particles are critical when it comes to damage to the lungs and the rest of the body. Apart from that, gases too cause damage.
Age Groups Most Vulnerable To Air Pollution
Dr Kumar said that anyone who is breathing this quality of air is vulnerable. However, the newborns and children are the most vulnerable. Dr Kumar said that infants have far more exposure than adults. He added,
Compared to an adult who breathes about 12–14 times a minute, an infant breathes 40 times a minute, which means more inhalation of the toxic air.
Dr Kumar said that infants have growing tissues, and when a chemical attacks a growing tissue, the damage is far greater than the tissues of adults.
Talking about how shutting down schools could protect children to some degree from air pollution, Dr Kumar said,
The air inside the house is the same as the air outside. However, when you are close to highways, roads, or any industrial areas, the levels are much higher than the levels inside the house. The school starts in the morning, and the higher levels of air pollution are between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.So, children are exposed to the highest levels of toxins. Secondly, children run and play. When they run, their respiratory rates are higher. That is why schools are shut during this period.
Dr Kumar said, the other age group most vulnerable to rising air pollution is the elderly, as their immunity is low and their resistance to being able to fight the diseases caused by air pollution becomes low. They have a higher chance of contracting pneumonia and other problems.
Measures To Protect From Air Pollution
Dr Kumar said that the air has inhuman levels of pollutants and there are no concrete solutions to the problem. However, one can try their best to stay away from a highly polluted area. Wearing masks, preferably N95, is beneficial to some extent, as it protects from particulate matter, but the gaseous matter still goes through them, Dr Kumar said. Masks are crucial for those who are asthmatic or suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
Talking about the air purifier appliances, Dr Kumar said that they are not a solution to pollution. For the air purifier to be effective, the room has to be sealed and closed, and windows and doors have to be shut, he added. Dr Kumar also advised avoiding exercising indoors unless one can ensure better air quality inside.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.