Many people for long have been in denial about air pollution but the reality has hit them hard over the last few years. With the dipping AQI, many have started coughing and are encountering breathing problems while stepping out. There has also been a significant rise in the number of patients with breathing issues due to air pollution.
Alarming air pollution levels in the country has paved way for air purifiers as well. Available in different shapes and sizes, from personal air purifiers to room air purifiers to solutions that can be added to the HVACs, you can get one for as low as Rs 1,000 and going up to Rs 10,000 and above. While the technology works indoors, buying an air purifier and using it can be tricky, explains Dr Sandeep Nayar, Senior Director & Head of Centre for Chest & Respiratory Diseases at BLK Super Speciality Hospital.
"Air purifiers work but you should get one as per the size of the room. Investing in a small air purifier thinking it will clean a larger space doesn't work," says Dr Nayar.
There is a also lot of confusion around whether one should keep windows open for air to circulate. If using an air purifier at home, it is not always ideal to open a window when the pollution levels are high.
However, using an air purifier is not always advisable. "To some extent, air purifiers might work for those who are absolutely confined at home - for instance, the elderly or those suggested to stay at home due to some health-related issues. But if you have to step outside the house, using an air purifier when at home won't help. To prevent self from breathing polluted air, N95 and N99 masks are advisable," adds Dr Nayar.
While air purifiers and masks are a short-term solution, we have to address the root cause of air pollution in the long run. Some of the common factors contributing to the rising air pollution include coal and wood-based cooking, burning of dry leaves, vehicles, among others. The most common reason for the sudden spike air pollution, at least in northern parts of the county, happens to be stubble burning which severely damages the air quality. And as the temperature starts dipping, people do end up lighting small wood fires to keep themselves warm. While every bit adds to air pollution, many are unaware of the factors at home that contributes to indoor air pollution.
"We don't notice but the fumes, smoke and gases released by lighting incense sticks or mosquito coils increases indoor air pollution many folds. In fact, even more than smoking a cigarette," adds Dr Nayar.
The polluted air is the root cause of many health-related issues. "There is not even a single part of our body which is not affected by pollution. It's not just the respiratory part but our skin, eyes, heart, digestive system - everything gets affected due to pollution. Pollution affects maximum to the extreme of ages - elderly and small kids - due to less immunity," explains Dr Nayar.
Although we are investing in short-term solutions today, the need of the hour is to think about our future and work towards having clean air both indoors as well as outdoors.