Ask any Delhi resident these days to describe the city’s summer weather and they will report “scorching hot” conditions, but for those who check their mobile weather app the current conditions reveal a more sinister story that goes well beyond the record-breaking heat.
Dust. Smoke. Haze. These are the words one sees instead of the usual expected adjectives of “cloudy,” “sunny” or “rain” alongside temperatures reading in the 40’s Celsius.
The sky outside doesn’t always reveal the entire story when it comes to the air we are breathing, air that is often filled with tiny, dangerous particles that harm our health, more so to the most vulnerable – children and elderly.
Delhi’s air leaves a lot to be desired. One thing has become apparent after two rounds of odd-even car rationing it’s going to take more than a two week episode of limited car restrictions to clean up our air.
As a mother to three young children, a professional and a person who loves to get off the sofa and get outside to move – Delhi’s air concerns me. A lot. I go to sleep at night and wake up most mornings wondering what outdoor activities we should shorten or reschedule all together. I think twice before opening the windows until I’ve checked my air quality apps to see what air I might be letting into my home. I wonder if it’s just a coincidence that I have nearly year-round allergies and a dry cough after a four decade allergy-free, healthy life. And my heart was shredded when my otherwise uber-healthy eight year-old woke suddenly over recent months with breathing difficulty and had to be started on inhalers.
Short of packing up and leaving town what is one to do? When faced with an obstacle we try to tackle it, or so I was taught from childhood. There is always a solution. So I’ve tried to learn a lot about this
health and environmental emergency. Many solutions are beyond our reach as individual citizens. But
there are, thankfully, some things we can do. Short-term, interim measures we can take to help
safeguard our health, and the health of our children, from air pollution.
1) Check the readings. Download real time air quality apps to monitor hourly readings and even see
forecasts for the next day. Check out: http://safar.tropmet.res.in/ or http://aqicn.org/city/delhi/r.k.-puram/
2) Avoid aerobic activity during the “bad” air times. That typically means early morning and late
afternoon and evenings. Talk to the coach about moving the children’s cricket, tennis or football
practice to late morning timings. Perhaps on weekends and school holidays, a midday indoor AC
environment is better, e.g. ice skating in Gurgaon.
3) Talk to your child’s school. Ask them to monitor air quality both inside the class room and outside.
Then encourage them to adjust outdoor sports and activities to help limit exposure during the bad
air times. Ask them to create “idle-free zones” on the streets outside the school gates to reduce
“pollution hot spots” in the places where the children walk and wait on a daily basis.
4) Look into buying a high quality face mask that filters out dangerous airborne particles for your child. Look for either N95 or N99 rated masks and be sure the fit is secure with no outside gaps to let
outside air in. The gap would negate the positive benefit and protection from the mask by allowing
pollutant particles back in.
5) Consider an indoor HEPA air filter for your home, specifically for your child’s bedroom. This would
ensure 8-10 hours of sleeping time with cleaner air for your little one. There are some great options
on the market from the affordable SmartAir filter at 3,000 rupees to the pricier options from Sharp and BlueAir. Best to look for air cleaning devices with HEPA filters, the only ones that can remove PM 2.5 particles from the air.
Tell us your personal stories on how you battle air pollution in your daily life and in your community.