National Pollution Control Day: 5 Ways To Protect Yourself From Air Pollution
An average person can survive for about 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food, and only 3 minutes without air.The air quality in North India deteriorated severely this week, becoming alarmingly more polluted than the safe standards set by the World Health Organization. The SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) reported SPM 2.5 (suspended particulate matter of a diameter less than 2.5 microns) this year. In 2013, a research involving 3,12,944 people from 9 European countries reported that there is no level of atmospheric particulates that can be deemed entirely safe, and that for every increase of 10 μg/m3 in SPM 10, the lung cancer rate went up by 22 per cent. And in the case of SPM 2.5, that are considered particularly deadly for their ability to go deep into respiratory tract, and cause increased damage, lung cancer showed a whopping 36 per cent increase per 10 μg/m3. What harm can these tiny particles do, you ask?
SPM has been known to cause lung irritation, aggravation in the severity of chronic lung diseases, inflammation of lung tissue, and an increase in susceptibility to viral and bacterial pathogens, leading to diseases like pneumonia in people with low immunity. And, of course, let’s not forget lung cancer.
Now that we have the facts clear, here’s what you could do to protect yourself (and your family) from the worst of air pollution:
- Morning walks are better – That is not to say that it’s absolutely safe; it is only relatively better. Pollution is indiscriminately everywhere, every time, and it is best advised that you stay indoors as much as you can. But if you must go for a jog at all, then know that early morning air is less polluted than any other time of the day. Remember to take it light with any kind of outdoor activity. On days when you experience teary eyes, difficulty in breathing, or tightness around your chest, don’t push it. Listen to your body.
2. Eat clean – Eating clean seems to be the solution to everything. Eating clean really IS the solution to everything. A colossal amount of free radicals are created in the body because of pollution, and it is wise for you to eat foods rich in antioxidants like berries, artichokes, kidney beans, pecans, dark chocolate, tomatoes etc., to minimise the harmful effects of these alien chemicals. Simultaneously, include citrus fruits, ginger, green tea, almonds, and other immunity-boosting foods in your diet.
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3. Go green – Welcome the idea of a garden, especially one that is full of plants known for their air-purifying qualities such as dwarf date palm, Boston fern, spider palm, bamboo palm etc. The exact extent to which these plants may help hasn’t been determined yet, but the NASA Clean Air Study results were in favour of the theory. Considering NASA said it, what’s the harm in trying it, right?
4. Taxis over rickshaws – Choose travelling in taxis over other open-air public transport modes for a little while, and turn the air conditioning setting to ‘recirculate’ (with the windows rolled up), so that you avoid breathing in polluted air from outside. Ditching public transport will only aggravate the pollution problem instead of helping it, so try carpooling. Metros are a good idea as well, if your destination is in the vicinity of a metro station.
5. Air purifiers and masks – Indoor air purifiers do a great job of…er, their job. They’re basically like a vacuum cleaner for air. These purifiers rid the air of everything, including the finer SPM 2.5 particles, and are great for people with air-borne allergies or asthma. Word of advice – go for the non-ionic air purifiers, as the ionic kinds produce ozone as a by-product, which is great for the environment (because the ozone layer is depleting), but is also a major lung irritant that causes throat irritation and breathing discomfort as well. Coming to air-purifying masks, they’re your personal, portable air purifiers that you can carry anywhere! The better quality purifiers claim to filter out at least 95 per cent of all pollutants, which is a lot, really. Wear these masks as much as possible; not only when you're going outside for a walk or jog, but also if you're out on so much as your terrace. Here are the 2 things to keep in mind when you’re buying your first mask:
a. Ratings – These matter because they’re a proof that your mask has been tested and meets benchmark standards. Make sure your mask is rated at least N95 (there are also N99 or P100 varieties available). U.S. NIOSH or EU FFP ratings can be trusted.
b. The fit – This matters because an ill-sized mask will hang loose at places, and let outside air in, defeating the whole point of the mask.
It’s not a lot to ask for fresh air to breathe, and you shouldn’t refrain from doing whatever it takes to ensure that your loved ones are protected, including making changes towards a better future – one where breathing doesn’t kill.