Worried about rising air pollution? Here are some ways to safeguard yourself and your family | Fitness tips of the day

Air pollution is the contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment. This can be caused by any chemical, physical, or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Some of the familiar sources of air pollution are household combustion devices, motor vehicles and industrial facilities. Air pollution is responsible for causing various respiratory diseases and is an essential source of morbidity and mortality.

In February 2022, Mumbai saw unusually high pollution levels, with its Air Quality Index (AQI) frequently reading above 300, matching Delhi’s AQI. An AQI between 301 and 400 is categorized as ‘red or ‘very poor. According to SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research), the current elevated level of pollution is due to a second dust storm that has recently hit the city, less than two weeks ago. This storm coupled with reduced day temperatures, weak, low-speed winds, high relative humidity, and coldness of the air are all contributing factors to the bad air above the city.

From smog hanging over cities to smoke inside the home, air pollution is today one of the biggest threats to health and climate. The combined effects of ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution cause millions of premature deaths every year, mainly due to increased mortality from Stroke, Heart Disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Lung Cancer and acute respiratory infections. Constant exposure to air pollutants can cause multiple health hazards, especially over a long duration. The most harmful is the PM2.5 particle that can penetrate deep into Lung pathways and even enter the bloodstream, gaining access to any organ. Some adverse health effects include the following:

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
  • Coughing, chest tightness
  • Respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses from exposure to particulate matter
  • Damage to the Lung cells
  • Increased stress on organs such as the Lungs and Heart to supply oxygen
  • The worsening condition of the Lungs and its accelerated ageing lead to reduced Lung function and capacity. This can cause diseases like Asthma, Bronchitis, Emphysema, and even Lung Cancer, which may develop due to these pollutants
  • Heart diseases may develop into congestive heart failure
  • Those with pre-existing respiratory ailments may further get Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

We encourage everyone to get involved in the fight for a cleaner, healthier air. Here are some simple, practical tips for protecting you and your family from the dangers of air pollution:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible
  • Wear N95 masks instead of cloth ones when stepping out in these conditions
  • Avoid exercising outdoors, especially in the mornings, when there is heavy smog (smoke + fog); prefer exercising indoors
  • Restrain from burning items as fine particles from smoke are equally bad for health
  • Use air purifiers at home, if possible, to keep the air clean and change the filters at regular intervals
  • Plant saplings like Peace Lily, Aloe Vera, Spider Plant (they act as natural air purifiers), which help to breathe easy indoors
  • Don’t smoke indoors; encourage yourself & others not to smoke
  • Stay hydrated and eat immunity-boosting fruits, vegetables, and legumes
  • Support green initiatives and support causes that genuinely help combat climate change
  • Teach children and the elderly in the family the importance of mask-wearing, which would be an excellent way to safeguard oneself from air pollution, even after we have successfully tackled the COVID19 pandemic

Inputs by Paritosh Baghel, Senior Consultant-Internal Medicine, SL Raheja Hospital, Mumbai

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