Indoor air pollution also a concern

Reality check

With National Pollution Day (December 2) and World Health Organization (WHO) declaring air quality of Indian metropolitan cities worst in the world, healthcare professionals are registering a sharp rise in respiratory problems.

This, the doctors say, affects especially in the immune compromised populations like children, elderly and people with health issues or malnutrition.

“Air pollution has come up as one of the major health challenges of the modern Indian cities. With increasing respiratory problems and morbidities, it is now important to raise levels of knowledge around pollutants, outdoor as well as indoor, and their health hazards,” says Dr Raj Kumar, head of department of Respiratory Allergy and Applied Immunology, Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute.

He says that several community-based studies have already established a strong link between air pollution and respiratory morbidity and have reported an association between indoor air pollution and respiratory morbidity. This not just clearly indicates the importance of putting systems and practices in place that could help improve overall air quality in the metros, but also an urgent need to cut down the sources of indoor air
pollution at home.

Dr Raj Kumar says, “In India we have a long standing tradition of burning of incense sticks or dhoop that could increase the concentration of particulate matter (PM) by about 15 times more than the permitted levels. Studies indicate that the smoke emitted by these, releases harmful pollutants. Along with this, smoke from the tobacco and cooking and dust from carpets, furniture and curtains etc further add to the indoor air pollution, which is extremely harmful for the lungs. The situation further worsens after festivals like Diwali and with the onset of winters, when smog level increases alarmingly.”

The ‘rule of 1000’, emphasised by the report of the WHO and cited by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Bulletin, states that when a pollutant is released indoors, it is one thousand times more likely to reach people’s lungs than a pollutant released outdoors. Each year, more than 1.6 million people, mainly women and children, die prematurely due to high levels of indoor smoke. Surprisingly, this figure represents approximately twice the estimated mortality due to outdoor pollution.

As air purifiers are already becoming part of metro-households, it will be interesting to see how the trend catches up with the actual necessity of such technologies in big cities and helps people with prevention of respiratory diseases.

Commenting on the increasing trend of air purifier,Vijay Kannan, head of Blueair (air purifier company) says, “Definitely the demand of air purifiers in the cities have increased. With air quality getting extremely poor, people have started realising the importance of ensuring at least indoor air breathable. While we have registered an overall increase in the demand in the metros, post Diwali it is like boom in the market. We are hopeful that the technology would not just help people with asthma and other respiratory illnesses, but will contribute in reducing the rate of respiratory diseases in the cities.”

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