We live in an age where pollution is considered a necessary byproduct of development. With more than half the world's population living in towns and cities, a higher percentage of humans are exposed to increasing industrial and vehicular emissions. The result is a rising incidence of lung cancer, chronic respiratory ailments such as asthma, heart disease, damage to brain, nerves, kidneys and liver. The term 'death by breath' that came up during the Delhi government's effort to clean up its air is unfortunately apt in today's context.
While WHO estimates that 7 million premature deaths are linked to air pollution across the globe each year, Global Burden of Disease says outdoor air pollution caused 627,000 deaths in India and 17.7 million healthy years of life lost in 2010. To put that in perspective, each year, around 1.25 million people die in road accidents. This means we're more likely to die of diseases or complications arising from air pollution than in a road accident.
If we look at Delhi which was recently in news for its toxic air quality, the situation is very grim. A recently conducted study by Kolkata based Chittranajan National Cancer Institute found that the killer particulate matter (PM10) levels in the air are double of that in Beijing. This has led to irreversible lung damage in around 22 Lakh schoolchildren in the National Capital Region. Children are far more vulnerable to air pollution as they have higher oxygen demands and also because lungs are still developing and hence are more vulnerable to airborne insults.
Even as governments world over are bringing tougher laws and implementing various measures to curb this menace, their efforts need to be supplemented by changes at the individual level. Apart from co-operating with local bodies in campaigns such as No Car days, we could plant more trees, segregate garbage etc. However, we also need to focus on combating indoor air pollution as its impact on health far outweighs that of outdoor air pollution.
In developing countries like India, bio fuels continue to be used for cooking in homes, releasing a large amount of pollutants. Increasing construction activities cause particulate matter to enter busy residential areas. Use of household pesticides, cleaning agents, aerosols, even cigarette smoke and humidity also add to the level of air pollution within our houses.
So, what can we do to keep ourselves and our communities safe from this indoor killer?
- Switch to cleaner fuels, install exhaust hoods and ensure sufficient ventilation in kitchens.
- Use ceramic tiles on bathroom walls instead of plaster and use exhaust fans while showering to dispel humidity. If you have had water damage like that in the Chennai floods, discard all items which have a possibility of developing mold.
- Throw away anything that rots or accumulates humidity and/or dust mites.
- Using a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filter and disposable bags as well as microfiber cloth for mopping will remove dust and other allergens more effectively.
- Reducing usage of household cleaners, mosquito and insect repellents and not storing chemicals like solvents and pesticides at home help.
- Simple things like removing shoes and placing an easy to clean mat at the entrance to the house can go a long way too.
- Keeping plants at home not only helps reduce air pollution, but also gives your house more aesthetic appeal.
- In homes, offices and factories, cleaning of air-conditioning ducts should be a matter of routine.
- Installing air purifiers, both in offices and at homes, will also make the indoor air quality more ambient. Apart from inhibiting allergens and bacteria, purifiers can get rid of dust as well as odours in the air. The Panasonic Air Purifier offers added benefits such as memorizing the pollution pattern and developing an automatic operation pattern to detoxify the air around you.
So, don't wait any more. Go ahead and detoxify your surroundings and your life!