5 Extremely Worrying Facts About The Air Toxicity Problem In India
It is high time that each of us takes an active stand in this fight against air pollution by doing our bit to protect ourselves and our families, while we await our policymakers to make macro changes
Photo Credit : Reuters
Unless one has been living under a rock, quite literally, there is no other way to be unaware or oblivious of the severe air pollution crisis that has enveloped our cities in India. While many of us have tried to take a few steps to protect ourselves from this crisis, such as avoiding outdoor walks in the morning or keeping air freshener plants in our rooms, many others have chosen to look the other way, believing that there’s hardly anything they can do about what is perceived as a macro-level problem.
It is true that a widespread change in the situation can only be brought about with policy initiative and some massive governmental initiatives. Yet, there is a lot about air pollution that Indians are still ignorant of – factors that they need to take cognizance of and choices that they can make to improve their health and protect their loved ones.
1. Impact on children: The most significant impact of the deleterious air pollution levels in India is on the health of its citizens, most particularly children. As per WHO, the severely poor quality of the air that we breathe has been killing almost 7 million people globally every year. The problem is more pronounced for children who are grappling with respiratory disorders from the day that they are born. Before they can even develop strong immunity, they are exposed to the most harmful levels of toxicity possible that is leading to issues ranging from sleep apnea, disorientation, wheezing, coughing to impaired neurodevelopment and cognitive abilities, which can eventually trigger asthma and even childhood cancer.
2. Impact on the climate: Air pollution harms the environment in more ways than one and the most apparent of these is climate change. Many of the gases that cause air pollution also have a greenhouse effect because they trap the Sun’s heat and push up the Earth’s temperature. This has resulted in unusual weather conditions across the globe, including prolonged but warmer winters in Northern India and an unpredictable monsoon across the rest of the country. Further, such alterations in the climate, especially the rainfall levels, have terribly impacted the livelihood of a vast percentage of Indians who are primarily dependent on agricultural produce for survival. Therefore, the upshot of air pollution has a global climatic impact, making the world unsustainable for our future generations.
3. The vicious cycle of growing pollution: One of the most saddening narratives in this crisis is that of its repetitive nature, it is truly a vicious cycle that never seems to end. The primary cause of air pollution is the harmful emission of gasses from the ever-growing number of vehicles on Indian roads, crop burning and unorganized recycling of e-waste and plastics. However, many other similar activities have combined to make the problem a disastrous epidemic. Exhaust from diesel generators, dust on construction sites, industrial activities, mismanaged landfills, burning of old leaves and tyres amongst others. Where some progress seems to be made in one aspect, one can see a simultaneous decline in another. The conundrum of whether to look at automotive sales and industrial activity as progress or as dangers to the environment, further adds to the complexity of the situation. This trade-off between rapid growth and pollution is only going to gain more prominence as our emerging economy continues to expand.
4. Causes of indoor air pollution: Indian families have to be aware that pollution isn’t just caused by factors outside of their control. There are many facets of indoor pollution that can be controlled by them to make the quality of air their loved ones breathe better. Most Indians cook their meals on open fires using traditional methods such as wood, charcoal, cow dung and crop wastes that fill their homes with noxious smoke and toxicity. Other household products such as varnishes, paints and many cleaning products also emit polluted gases that can cause serious breathing problems. There is an urgent need to educate masses about their habits and the products they use and the health effects their malpractices can have.
5. Inertia in tackling air pollution: Apart from education on causes and repercussions, there is a lot of inertia still in tackling air pollution at a micro level. Yes, the government is expected to bring about all-encompassing change, but there is a lot one can do at an organizational and private level to protect oneself as well.
For example, there are many residential and commercial buildings that are offering purified indoor air as one of their offerings, by tying up with state-of-the-art technology providers. By choosing to live and work out of such buildings, one can ensure the good health of their family members and employees. Even opting for a holistic purification system can be a good first step in this direction. Getting rid of chemical-heavy cleaning products from one’s house, avoiding exercise in polluted areas, using less energy consuming devices are other ways in which one can keep their own and their family’s breathing environment healthy. It is high time that each of us takes an active stand in this fight against air pollution by doing our bit to protect ourselves and our families, while we await our policymakers to make macro changes.
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