As Delhi greeted the morning of 7 November, 2017, there was something else waiting to greet us back. Camouflaged as the fog, the deadly smoke that filled the air was so stinging that everyone who went for a stroll around the city felt it.
The pollution levels have reached 19 times the permissible limit, as reported by CNN News 18:
The decline in the air quality is so severe that the Indian Medical Association has declared a public health emergency, requesting schools to shut down and avoid all outdoor activities. Even the seemingly 'healthy' morning walks have been declared 'unhealthy' due to the extremely poor air quality.
How poor, you ask? Take a look at the Air Quality Index yourself:
Did I mention that 50 is the ideal AQI and anything above 300 is hazardous?
While Gurugram is the only region that is still just "unhealthy," all other NCR regions easily qualify to be called "deadly."
Some on social media called it a "gas chamber".
Some call it #DeathByBreath,
This guy takes a dig at the situation,
While this fellow spotted some humour too,
The alarming air pollution levels are reigning over our social feeds.
Where are we heading? While all has been said and done, no one really tells you about the longterm hazards that this situation entails. Even staying indoors is not a solution anymore.
Dangers of air pollution no one tells you about
Though the dangers are many, let us talk about a few that are lesser known. Let alone CO2, we are breathing Nitrogen that's 300 times worse!
Little do we know about nitrogen pollution. Nitrogen is an important element for agricultural fertilizers, and we highly depend on it on a deeper level than we realize. However, nitrogen fertilisers used in farming are a major cause of environmental degradation. The AQI polls have found high levels of oxides of nitrogen. While fuel on the road also emits a good deal of nitrogen oxide, the major source of nitrous oxide emissions is the synthetic agricultural fertiliser. Three hundred times worse than carbon dioxide, this gas is constantly depleting the ozone layer. Have you noticed that it is November and there's no sign of winter yet?
While our waist size is getting bigger, our brain is getting smaller!
The world struggling with obesity is one thing and our brains shrinking is another. Studies suggest that air pollution may shrink the brain. Poor air quality exposes our brains to strokes causing significant brain damage. Moreover, prolonged exposure to air pollution is reported to shrink the cerebral brain volume.
It is linked with ADHD in kids
Pregnant women exposed to air pollution have high odds of delivering children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
It affects our mental health too
A study conducted by the National University of Singapore suggests that air pollution is damaging to mental health. Professor Sam points out:
"Air pollution can drain our self-control resources psychologically, causing a range of conditions including insomnia, feelings of anxiety or even depression."
With that, it was also noted that air pollution is directly related to an increase in counterproductive workplace behaviour!
It's more serious than we realise
Air pollution causes 12L deaths in India annually; Delhi worst off: Greenpeace India
Although we know that air pollution leads to respiratory diseases, lung cancer and cardiovascular illnesses, it's a lesser-known fact that air pollution also increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
With so much at risk, are we really ready to face what's ahead? With the growing levels of pollution every year, we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the matter, because it's not just us struggling with the ill-effects of this epidemic, but also our future generation, economies, and the world at large.
How do we deal with it?
I cannot talk for politicians or the big decision makers, not even from the perspectives of health experts, but being informed and responsible individuals, we need to do stay prepared and combat the situation at individual levels and that's the best we can do.
- Always check AQI before you move outdoors. There are various apps available for it.
- If you are in a different city planning to visit Delhi, try not to!
- Although even the indoor air isn't ideal these days, it is still better than the gaseous air outside. Try to stay indoors during the day.
- Avoid busy roads.
Some tricks you might not have considered:
- Plant high-oxygen emitting plants indoors to purify air naturally.
- Use an air purifier from a trusted brand.
- Wear an anti-pollution mask.
- Avoid physical exertion to inhale lesser air and thus, lesser pollution.
- Select the 'Recycled air setting' in your car.
The unavoidable - get insured:
We joke about not having insurance every day, but only a few of us recognize the great saviour in a health insurance policy. The increasing pollution underlines the need for health insurance, and it's high time we realize this need. The burgeoning cost of private hospitalisation is inescapable, and the cover provided by our employers is insufficient.
Nearly 95% of Indians do not have adequate health insurance plans according to Apollo Munich, i.e. they are under-insured, and those above 45 fall in the highest risk group.
Set aside being under-insured,
"80 % of Indian population not covered under any health insurance"- TOI
And being uninsured is not just restricted to rural areas.
"82% of urban population were still not covered under any scheme, public or private, to support health expenditure." -TOI
With the rise in health risks due to poor environmental conditions, adequate health insurance has become extremely critical.
I wonder how car insurance is mandatory, and health insurance is still underrated! We are breathing poison, and staying prepared along with contributing our bit to save the earth is the only way to deal with it. Blame games won't do any good.
Does that give you food for thought? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.