Do you never smoke? Then you are pretty much safe from lung diseases, right? Wrong. Well, just in case you happen to be a Delhi-ite, you actually breathe in air that is akin to smoking 40 cigarettes a day. And that is no exaggeration. A World health Organization (WHO) report stated that the air in Delhi is the most polluted in the world.
Millions of people living in urban areas around the world are exposed to excessive air pollution and are at a risk of serious, long-term health problems. According to WHO, the national capital has the highest concentration of PM2.5 — particulate matters less than 2.5 microns— form of air pollution, which is considered to be the most harmful. This form of concentration consists of tiny particles that put people at additional risk of respiratory diseases and other health problems.
Beijing, which was once considered one of the most polluted cities, has PM2.5 concentration of 56 micrograms and PM10 concentration of 121 micro grams. But breaking Beijing’s record, Delhi now stands first in the not so appreciative list of the most polluted cities. The situation is so bad in Delhi that its air has PM2.5 concentrations of 153 micrograms and PM10 concentrations of 286 micrograms, much more than permissible limits.
The vehicles are stacked and packed one behind the other, standing on the same traffic signal as it changes thrice from red to green. In the last two years, you must have noticed that every time you start moving on the road you are stuck in traffic in no time, as if the wagons are continuously sliding into the Delhi roads from a giant manufacturing unit endlessly until the roads get choked.
Anumita Roy Chowdhury of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said “According to the global burden of disease estimates, air pollution is the fifth largest killer in India. Tiny particles (PM10 and PM2.5) go deep inside our lungs and trigger respiratory and cardiac problems as well as lung cancer.”
Prior to the recent visit of US President Barrack Obama, the American embassy in Delhi purchased over 1,800 high-performance portable indoor air purifiers to protect employees at the embassy and other locations. It’s embarrassing to know that our city is not even considered breathable by foreign citizens.
No matter how alarming these figures may seem to you and me, our politicians continue to be embroiled in an unending tu-tu-main-main, allowing the capital’s atmosphere to become as “toxic” as Delhi’s election campaign (read Kiran Bedi’s remarks on Kejriwal being “toxic”). This is precisely why not a single manifesto or “vision” states the need to clean Delhi’s air.
So, if you’re already suffering from long diseases, and happen to be health conscious, the best bet for you might be to abscond from the city!
If you plan to stick on, however, here’s what you can do to save yourself from the menace of toxins:
1. Avoid outdoor exercise: Exercising accelerates the flow of air pollutants into your lungs and to the rest of your body, increasing the chances of respiratory ailments. If you can’t do without your daily jog, go to parks or gardens that are at least 500 meters away from the road;
2. Use public transportation: In the long run, this might be the best way of improving the city’s air. Car emissions account for around 75% of the capital’s pollution, according to the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment. On an average, 1,000 new cars are added to the city each day, according to a report that cites a government study. Despite the government’s attempts to upgrade infrastructure, the number of people using public transportation has actually gone down over the years. Also, do keep a proper check on the pollution level of your vehicles;
3. Wear an antipollution mask. Plain surgical masks alone won’t work. To avoid the choking pollutants, you need the high-tech masks with filters to stave off smaller particles. While that may sound pretty extreme, and you may think I’m getting paranoid, but Delhi actually has become that toxic!
4. Have plants in your house and office space (if you own one): This is a full-proof way of having cleaner air around you, and if you have studied NCERT books as a child, you would know that all too well. So, go back to your school textbooks and do what they say: Plant more trees!
They say an average human being can survive three weeks without food, three days without water (roughly), and three minutes without air (roughly). If you already did not know how important the air around you is for your survival, with this knowledge in place, your life might just change. So get up, take charge! This is one list we definitely don’t want our city to top!