A day after the country celebrated Diwali, a disconcerting revelation unfolded as three major Indian metropolises featured on the list of the most polluted cities in the world, according to real-time rankings by IQAir, a Swiss air purifier company.
On November 13, Delhi claimed the dubious title of the world’s most polluted city with an air quality index (AQI) of 287. Mumbai and Kolkata also secured a position in the top 10, with AQIs of 153 and 166, respectively. IQAir’s AQI, sourced from data across 109 countries, follows US methodology, showcasing a slightly different perspective from the Indian metrics.
The AQI values are a measure of PM 2.5 (particulate matter) that is especially harmful to respiratory health. These dwindling AQI levels highlight the immediate impact of firecracker emissions. Despite their transient nature compared to continuous sources like vehicles and biomass burning, the spike in pollutants poses a severe threat to respiratory health.
Parts of Delhi witnessed air pollution levels surging to 30 times the safety limits prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO), primarily attributed to Diwali firecrackers. This surge persisted despite a ban on firecrackers in the city.
AQI levels ranging from 400 to 500 pose risks to both healthy individuals and those with existing health conditions, while levels between 150 and 200 bring discomfort to people with respiratory issues. On the other hand, levels of 0 to 50 are considered ideal.
With AQI levels plunging in various cities across India, Dr Vikas Maurya, director and head, Department of Pulmonology and Sleep Disorders, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi, shared some practical tips to prevent the impact of air pollution:
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*Avoid outdoor activities, especially morning walks, during high pollution periods.*Utilise N95 or N99 masks when venturing outside during elevated pollution levels.*Steer clear of busy routes and streets known for high pollution levels.*Ensure proper ventilation at home using exhaust hoods and fans to reduce exposure to indoor pollutants.*Prohibit smoking indoors to prevent additional indoor air pollution.*Introduce air-purifying plants like aloe vera, ivy, and spider plants indoors to enhance air quality.*Regularly clean furnishings and use a vacuum to remove dust, reducing indoor pollution.*Consider air filters or purifiers, especially for vulnerable individuals, such as children, pregnant women, or those with pre-existing lung conditions.*Adopt a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and immune-boosting foods. Eat fruits rich in vitamin C, magnesium, and foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Ginger and tulsi tea can also be consumed.*Stay hydrated to help flush out toxins from the body, supporting respiratory and overall health.*Consult a doctor if persistent health issues related to air pollution, especially if respiratory problems arise.
As India grapples with the escalating menace of air pollution, individual awareness, and proactive measures become imperative to safeguard public health.
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