Delhi Pollution: 5 Myths About Air Pollution That You Must Stop Believing Right Now
Delhi pollution: Did you know that even a few days of exposure to high levels of air pollution can have fatal outcomes, especially among children? Read here to know more about air pollution right here.
Air pollution myths: Electric cars are not entirely non-polluting
- Air pollution can harm you when you are indoors as well
- Even slight exposure to polluting air can be harmful for you
- Install air purifiers at home to reduce air pollution health risks
Pollution in Delhi: Air pollution is one of the biggest concerns of people in Delhi right now. Public health emergency was declared previously. Air quality index has been consistently hazardous, unhealthy or very unhealthy. Respiratory issues, cough, cold and congestion are a few of the many health risks posed by air pollution. In this article, Dr Vishal Sehgal talks about common myths about air pollution that have been doing rounds. Some of these myths will leave you surprised.
Air pollution myths you must stop believing
1. Deaths due to air pollution levels are exaggerated
There is no doubt that air pollution can cause and worsen a host of respiratory ailments including asthma, bronchitis, and lung cancer. It can also trigger strokes, aggravate heart disease and negatively impact cognitive and athletic performance. According to data from the WHO, air pollution is one of the leading causes of death due to lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Each year, it accounts for 29% of all deaths due to lung cancer and is known to cause 25% fatalities due to ischemic heart disease1.
2. Electric cars are non-polluting
This is a perfect example of 'ignorance is bliss'. While electric vehicles may not be direct contributors to air pollution, they do leave a rather large carbon footprint because almost all Indian electric cars have batteries that charge on electricity coming from thermal power. Also, since electric cars have lower performance efficiency owing to the weight of the batteries, most battery-operated vehicles have greater wear and tear of tyres that greatly contributes to particulate emission. So, unless your electric car runs on solar powered batteries, they cannot be called entirely pollution-free.
3. Staying indoors can save you from air pollution
Pollution is everywhere, even indoors, and there is no escaping it. If you think staying indoors saved your lungs from choking up, then you may be in for a rude shock. The fact is that indoor air quality is often worse than outdoors, because there are several toxic air pollutants such as PM 2.5, VOCs, dust, mould and fungal spores that trickle into our homes from sources within our premises such as building materials, furniture, smoke from cooking, sprays, perfumes and incense. The aerosol sprays and the artificial fragrances used in our air fresheners, perfumes, and deodorants cause indoor air pollution to be at least 2 to 5 times higher than permissible limits2.
4. Only long-term exposure to air pollution is dangerous
Research shows that even a few days of exposure to high levels of air pollution can prove to be harmful or even fatal, especially for children, the elderly and patients of asthma and other respiratory ailments3. While long-term exposure leads to chronic ailments, exposure over a shorter period to pollutants such as PM2.5 is linked to onset of respiratory infections, throat irritation, headache, burning sensation in eyes, etc. In the wake of the recent air pollution calamity, there has been a 17% fall in flight bookings to Delhi as travellers including businessmen postponed or cancelled their trip to the city4.
5. Technology advancement will automatically improve air quality
Technology, like anything else, has two sides to it. Who would have thought of the serious air pollution vehicles contribute to when the world's first car was designed. In fact, industrialization and development is directly proportional to the deterioration in air quality and resource utilisation5. Rapid urbanization and the explosion in vehicular population in Indian cities have pushed air pollution levels up each year since 2010. Even as the country's weak pollution control framework fails to control this growing menace, 1 to 2 days of toxic air pollution are being added per year while an equal number of clean air days are being lost6. This is true even for a developed nation. So, unless conscious efforts are made to control pollution, air quality in cities cannot improve.
Air pollution has taken countless number of lives, with even greater number of people falling prey to serious health problems. While public health strategies and government policies can help to improve air pollution, individual inputs by way of conscious use of resources and adherence to guidelines can save us from such dire consequences in the future.
4According to data from Ixigo.com, As shared with The Economic Times, Page 1, 5 November, 2019.
(Dr Vishal Sehgal is Medical Director, Portea Medical)
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