When nature goes against its course, we see tsunami, earthquakes and floods caused by rain like we see in Kerala right now. Humans die in instant during these threatening events but these can only be reduced, cannot be avoided. But what about slow killers mostly caused by humans disturbing nature’s course and paying in return with their own and children’s life? One of those killers right now lurking on Indians is Air pollution. Air pollution is the fifth factor among all for most deaths in India. We are aware of Delhi and Mumbai being just dirty but do you know where it ranks on world air pollution chart?

Air Pollution – An Overview

Air pollution as we know is the presence of a harmful substance in the air we breathe. According to a study conducted by WHO (World Health Organisation) in May 2018, 90% of the population in India breaths polluted the air. This research was conducted in 108 countries which revealed that there are 15 major cities with the most polluted air and out of which 14 are in India. These cities were Kanpur, Delhi, Gurgaon and other North Indian cities.  It was said during the release of the article by WHO that breathing, Delhi smog is equal to smoking 44 cigarettes a day. Central Pollution Control Board of India calculates AQI (Air Quality Index) to determine and aware citizens of daily air quality. An AQI has ranked for air quality from Good to Hazardous and ranges between 0 and 500 respectively. And according to January 2018 calculations Delhi, Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Noida, Gurgaon and other North Indian cities were in a hazardous category. Apart from these North Indian cities, Mumbai was also ranked among the top 15 most polluted cities in the world. Even due to rising air, pollution level in Delhi and nearby cities turning the great Taj Mahal’s wall green.

Major Causes of Air Pollution in India

One of the major reasons for a high level of air pollution in India is its lax enforcement of laws to keep pollution at a low level. Law enforcement in terms of industrial waste disposal and factory emitting smoke near cities. Various types of factory smoke mostly contain pollutants SO2 and NO2. Cement factories and structuring a building also emits a lot of dust in populated areas. Also, many food and fertilizers company emits acid vapours which are hazardous to health. Thermal plants in India also consume coal in huge amount and emits fly ash in return which contains SO2. India is a developing country with the high population out of which 80% of the population resides in Middle class and poor category. Cooking stove known as Chulha in India are used by these population for cost-cutting. This population also use kerosene and other fuels to burn for car exhausts and crop burning. Right next in line with major causes of air pollution is the toxic smoke of traffic in India. 50% of air pollutants come out of vehicles like trucks, cars and others. Carbon compounds, sulphur compounds, Ozone and other chemicals fly into the air we breathe during heavy traffic causing minor health problem for short period and major disease in a longer run.

PM10 and PM2.5 Apocalypse

Their various pollutants are there including SO2, NO2, VOCs and PM. Here, PM means particulate matter which affects human bodies to a great extent. PM2.5 is 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Thus, it is invisible to the naked eye and passes through our body system, reaching to lungs causing various lung related diseases. Two types of PMs, PM2.5 and PM10 are dangerous to a human body. PM10 are considered less harmful than PM2.5. A PM10 stays in the thin air for a couple of hours but PM2.5 stays in the air we breathe for days or even months. PM2.5 comes out from vehicles exhaust, agricultural burning, industrial smokes and residential wood burning. These all activities currently are in practice in India despite raising the level of air pollution in metro cities. A study conducted by TERI and IIT, Delhi revealed that from last two decades annual level of PM2.5 in Delhi has been more than 94.6ug/m3 against the permissible limit of 40ug/m3. Noida and other north Indian cities had the higher level than Delhi.

Effects of Air Pollution on Each Indian Citizen

Breathing a considerable amount of PM2.5 on regular basis reduces the lifespan of a human by 2 years. Comparing PM2.5 with other risk factors like tobacco smoking and cancer, tobacco smoking reduces life expectancy by 1.56 years and cancer reduces the same at 1.26 years, lesser than the effects of PM2.5. Due to world awareness of health problems caused by tobacco smoking is considerably in control but air pollution in India lack awareness as well as the actions to be taken. This challenge has become one of the reasons of the death of poor in metro cities. An estimated 7 million deaths are associated with air pollution around the world. In 2015 alone 1.1 million deaths were caused by air pollution in India. PM2.5, VOCs and PM10 cause lung cancer, asthma and other heart-related diseases. Also, according to Delhi Heart and Lung Institute stated that over two million children – nearly half of the children in Delhi have abnormalities in their lungs due to, Delhi air quality.

Actions to Take For Fresh and Clean Air

The first thing which needs to put into action to reduce air pollution in India is enforcing laws to keep air pollution under control. The real challenge lies in putting awareness into action with small steps. A normal citizen can avoid air pollution from traffic by reducing trips in two-wheelers during heavy traffic. Normal measures taken by North Indians are wearing Facemask but what about the air you breathe in your home and at office areas. The air indoors also comes from outside including air pollutants. Of course, there are DIY measures like keeping windows closed, cleaning carpets regularly and avoiding cleaners with harmful chemicals but one of the easiest options to avoid air pollution is through installing air purifier at home and office. An air purifier with, HEPA filter can eliminate PM2.5 and PM10 from the air and provide clean and fresh air all day. Any advanced air purifier will include 5-7 layers of protection from harmful particles residing in the air we breathe in. There are many ranges for air purifiers which work for the different purpose. For example, you can have a car air purifier and advanced air purifiers for places with crowds like restaurants, hospitals and office.

A human cannot live without air for more than three minutes and secure our future generations, it our responsibility to reduce air pollution and provide fresh and clear air to our children.