In India, polluted indoor air causes 4.5 million fatalities every year and it is one of the biggest threats to human health and life as according to the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) report, air pollution is reducing the life expectancy of Indians by five years, most of which are avoidable. Indoor air is sometimes ten times more polluted than outdoor air and with the change in work culture to work-from-home, IAQ has become a crucial topic of discussion as more than 15 hours are spent indoors.
Many people are being exposed to indoor air pollution without understanding the implications. Major sources of indoor air pollution include smoke from cooking on solid fuels, smoke from cigarettes, incense sticks, dhoop, fumes from paint and varnish, mosquito coils, repellents and cleaning chemicals and exposure to these pollutants can significantly harm the health of residents resulting in respiratory, cardiovascular or endocrine disorders as well as cancer in extreme cases.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Kartik Singhal, Founder of O2 Cure and Managing Director at Zeco Aircon Limited, revealed, “So far, we have witnessed two levels of air pollutants – suspended particles (PM Level) and microbial level (equal to or below 0.1 µ, Coronavirus). However, the third level, toxic gases, is not being highlighted. A glimpse of it appeared last year as the formation of a smog cloud on Yamuna waters.”
He advised, “To kill the enemy, you must first know the enemy and awareness of air pollution in society should be given more weightage. Maintain optimal treated fresh air in your home to balance filtered air changes, odour and carbon-dioxide levels. Have the best air purifier technology installed to maintain goods AQI levels indoors, for PM 2.5, TVOC, formaldehyde, etc., since our furniture, rugs, carpets, curtains, etc., all release air pollutants that convert into allergies. Lastly, use a humidifier in homes during the dry winter season to reduce PM levels and increase moisture content or relative humidity.”
Adding to the list, Gaurav Kedia, Chairman of Indian Biogas Association, suggested some ways that can be used to improve indoor air quality and reduce air pollution in your home. These include –
1. VENTILATION: The most basic step is to open doors and windows to let fresh air in and stale air moves out. The same measure must be taken in the case of air-conditioned rooms. The doors/windows should be opened once daily to let fresh air in. Similarly windows should be opened when lighting cigarettes or incense sticks to let the smoke out.
ii. WET MOPPING ON FLOORS/OBJECTS: Where ever possible, wet mopping should be used to collect settled PM particles. Dry dusting unsettles the PM particles and they remain for a long time in the ambient air, entering our airways and causing uneasiness.
iii. PLANTS: There are a number of indoor plants which boost oxygen inside poorly ventilated homes and also reduce pollutants like VOCs, Benzene, CO and CO2 from the ambient air. These can withstand low light/artificial light and help freshen up the house’s atmosphere. Plants like snake plant, ficus, spider plant, aglonema, deffenbachia, areca palms and aloe vera are especially useful and recommended for fresh air in poorly ventilated homes and offices.
iv. PLANTING TREES: Trees like Banana, Mango, Neem, Peepal, Amla, Bel, Nariyal (Coconut), Chandan, Lotus, Jasmine, Ashok Kadamb, Tulsi and Parijat should be promoted as these have special benefits to the environment (apart from their fruits). As per the documented record by SM Edwardes, an officer of British India, about 78 species of trees were venerated in various parts of India and people were not allowed to cut them down. Planting trees along the road sides, footpaths, backyard or front yard can lead to planting of lakhs of trees, reducing the pollutants as well as exposure of land to hot sun radiations, resulting in cooler and fresh surroundings.
Some of these ideas cannot be implemented due to paucity of space. We have to educate our facility management staff and drivers, cleaners and people within the society to not burn compostable waste on the roadside. All biodegradable waste created within the house either should be used to create compost or should be disposed of properly and not with non-biodegradable waste.