By Sourya Majumder:
It’s been nearly two weeks since Diwali, and Delhi is still suffocating under a thick, toxic layer of smog. A combination of Diwali firecrackers and crop burning in Punjab and Haryana, along with the incoming winter, has contributed to a meteoric and persistent rise in the amount of PM2.5 (microparticles that clog people’s lungs) in Delhi’s already poor air – over 17 times more than the Indian Government’s safe level and 90 times more than that of the World Health Organisation. The Government has been struggling to control the situation, instituting “emergency measures” and even putting out appeals for suggestions on dealing with the crisis, on the internet. Schools have also been closed for 3 days as it becomes increasingly more difficult to breathe.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and if you’re a Delhite feeling the (by now all too familiar) choking sensation in your throat and the slow creeping of smoke particles into your lungs, here are some simple but effective steps you can take that will offer some immediate relief – until the situation improves:
This should be a no-brainer, but if you’re someone who needs to go out often for any number of reasons, try to cut down on your outdoors time as much as possible. Work from home, take leave if necessary, and postpone those morning walks and exercise sessions for healthier times – try to expose your lungs as little as possible to the toxic air outside.
Of course, even the indoors aren’t completely safe, considering that it’s the same air that’s circulating inside. Invest in air purifiers if you’re prepared to shell out a neat amount (anywhere between ₹ 30,000 – 90,000) to get your entire house outfitted, but considering that you’re more likely to have ACs installed in your home, just take the time to ensure that the inbuilt air purifier in your AC is clean.
If air purifiers are not an option, there’s a whole range of plants you can bring home to make your air a little bit cleaner. Plants like Aloe Vera, Ivy, and the Spider Plant are all great for your home at this time, as they suck up a lot of carbon – and thus a lot of pollutants – from the air. Just be sure that you’re prepared to take proper care of them.
Of course, air purifiers and ACs are expensive solutions, and many of us may not be able to stay indoors as much as we might want to. In that case, it might be a good idea to invest in a pollution mask, available at most pharmacies, which filter out particulate matter and help you breathe at least a little easier. The inexpensive ones cost around ₹4 or 5 – or you can invest in stronger, but more expensive, N95 masks.
With all that capitalism out of the way, let’s come down to simpler and relatively inexpensive ways of keeping clean – like drinking plenty of water (a good idea even on the best of days), which help wash out pollutants from your nose, throat, and lungs (and keep you hydrated – how’s that for a bonus).
And not just because it’s slowly but surely getting colder. Studies have found that air pollution has a whole range of effects on your skin – from premature ageing to diseases like eczema. This is the perfect time to put on your winter wear – or to just ensure that your entire body is covered.
As we hold our breath and wait for the Government – or Mother Nature – to finally clear up this crisis, these are just some things we can do to improve our immediate situation. But it’s more important now than ever to reduce our own contributions to these appalling conditions – whether via automobiles or Diwali firecrackers – to at least reduce the need for such lists in the future.