Delhi-NCR Is Facing The Worst-Ever Air Quality Crisis. What Are You Doing About Air Pollution?
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Air pollution in Delhi remains a major threat to people’s lives in the city - one which people don’t seem to be doing much about. The air quality index is currently getting all alarms ringing!
Smog continues to shroud Delhi-NCR with air quality readings teetering between hazardous and what-you-would-call-downright-fatal. Readings from all over the city are between 400 and 500 (and these are just official figures), generally termed ‘severe’ by WHO. People have been putting up pictures of readings from their own devices all over social media, which have reached up to 999, the highest they can go up to. The government seems to be finally be taking public health seriously and has ordered for all schools to be shut down till class 5, with outdoor activities being halted for school-going students in classes upwards. But is that enough?
The urban air database by the World Health Organization released in 2011 had reported Delhi to have exceeded the maximum PM 10 limit by almost 10 times. Then, the levels were at 198 μg/m3, whereas today, those levels have reached over 600 μg/m3! If this doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will.
Pollution is defined as the contamination of the environment, the main contributors to which are vehicular exhaust, coal-based thermal power plants, and largescale construction. In North India, crop burning in the states of Punjab and Haryana also play a big part in the rising levels of air pollution.
Effects of air pollution on health
A plethora of studies in the past have examined the effects of air pollution on human health, the most comprehensive study of which was conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board in 2008. Some of the common, predictable consequences noted then were respiratory distress, asthma, chronic headache, eye irritation, and skin irritation. The more recent studies have found more surprising links between air pollution and conditions like ADHD, abnormal mental growth in children, vitamin D deficiency, and even cancer. The most shocking of all though, is the latest study conducted by the University of Washington (UW) that found that a higher level of particulates in the air meant a greater the impact on mental health.
Anjum Hajat, an assistant professor of epidemiology at UW said, “The effects of air pollution on cardiovascular health and lung diseases like asthma are well established, but this area of brain health is a newer area of research”. The researchers focused on the amount of fine particulate matter in the air (that is produced by car engines, fireplaces and wood stoves, and power plants or anywhere else where coal or natural gas is burnt) and found the increase in these particles to be proportional to an increase in psychological distress in the participants of the study.
Needless to say, air pollution is one of the most vicious killers alive!
Measures to be taken:
- All schools and offices should be closed for the next few days. Employees should also be encouraged to work from home instead.
- People who must venture out of their houses, should do so via public transportation. Carpooling is also a good idea.
- Eat more foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins C, B, and E – these are known to have a protective effect against pollution.
- Don’t burn leaves, trash, and other materials.
- Avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.
As an individual, ensure that you wear an anti-pollution mask every time you go out, consider getting an indoor air purifier, and avoid going for jogs or walks early in the morning, since the air quality is especially bad at that time. Keeping indoor plants that purify the air is also a good idea. Most importantly, don’t stop making efforts towards a better planet as soon as the air quality improves. Pollution is a global crisis that needs consistent, sustained efforts, so that the future generations will have a place to call home.
PS: It’s kind of fashionable to be environment-friendly these days, so jump on to the bandwagon!