Air Pollution – The Hazard India Faces

In 1912, an article in the Rodney and Otamatea Times, Waitemata and Kaipara Gazette, a New Zealand Newspaper published a short article about the effects of coal consumption on the air and the climate. The article predicted that “the effect may be considerable in a few centuries”. Unfortunately, this article was too optimistic. One hundred and six years later, the air quality in the world’s major cities is in serious decline and New Delhi is one of the worst affected. The problem identified by the Rodney and Otamatea Times in 1912 and felt by every citizen of India today in 2018 is the problem that Breathify aims to remedy.


The Air Pollution Problem

According to the WHO, an estimated 92% of the world’s population lives in areas with dangerous levels of air pollution. Even at seemingly imperceptible levels, air pollution can increase one’s risk of cardiovascular and premature death. In 2016, it was linked to the deaths of 6.1 million people, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. India also has the world’s highest respiratory disease-related mortality rate, with 159 deaths per 100,000 in 2012.

Exposure to high levels of air pollution during pregnancy has many times been linked to miscarriages and even premature birth. According to a Division of Data, Research and Policy Report from UNICEF in December 2017, air pollution can arrest the development of the brain and cause pneumonia (which kills almost 1 million children under the age of five every year), apart from short-term respiratory infections and lung damage. Lung cancer, risk of heart attacks and strokes are the other deadly threats that loom upon our society due to air pollution.

Particulate Matter

 Particulate matter is categorized by the diameter size of the particles suspended in air. They consist of a combination of liquid, solid, organic and chemical components.

There are two main sizes of Particulate Matter, both of which are filtered by the pleated HEPA filter used in Breathify.

The following information has been sourced from the US EPA.

PM10: They are coarse particles, with a diameter size of 10 microns or more. They can be a big irritant for a person’s eyes, nose, and throat. Exposure to high concentrations of PM10 can lead to these particles being deposited in the lungs tissues and result in bad coughing, wheezing, asthma attacks and bronchitis to high blood pressure, heart attack, strokes and even premature death.

PM2.5: The greater risk however comes from fine particulate matter, that has a diameter of 2.5 microns or less, because not only does it get lodged in the lungs, but can also cross over to the blood stream, posing a risk of developing cardiovascular and pulmonary disorders. Since particulate matter also consists of chemicals and heavy metals in small quantities, the contamination can lead to carcinogenic growths in the upper respiratory tract. 

Air Pollution in India

Air pollution in India is 10 times the WHO’s recommended maximum, 12 times the standards employed in the United States, and over 2 times the level considered acceptable by the Indian government.

The following information has been sourced from a status report by Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority for Delhi (EPCA) and Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) published in February 2018

Outdoor Pollution

Crop Burning

The open burning of husks results in incomplete, which emits large amounts of toxic pollutants into the atmosphere. Pollutants contain harmful gases like Methane, Carbon Monoxide (CO), Volatile organic compound (VOC) and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Clouds of ash and smoke can travel more than a thousand kilometers and pollute the environment on a large scale.

Vehicular Pollution

Emissions from automobiles are responsible for about two thirds of the total air pollution in the urban area. The major pollutants include carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, lead, ozone and suspended particulate matter (SPM), which have very damaging effects on both human health and the ecology.

Industrial Pollution

Increased counts of factories and manufacturing units lead to large scale gaseous emissions of chemicals such as sulfur, carbon dioxide (CO2), oxides of nitrogen and methane. It is one of the main causes of pollution.

Construction Work

It includes land clearing, operation of diesel engines, demolition, burning, and working with toxic materials. Contaminants are spread around by wind and mainly include PM10 and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), asbestos and toxic gases.

Indoor Pollution

Indoor air pollution can be up to ten times worse than outdoor air pollution. This is because contained areas enable potential pollutants to build up more than open spaces do. As most people spend 80-90% of their lives indoors, this can be more of a silent killer than outdoor pollution, especially in non-ventilated rooms.

 Indoor pollutants are generated from tobacco smoke, building materials, furniture and fabric particles, pet hair, plants, pollen, mites, cleaning and hygiene products, air fresheners, computers, printers, cooking and other indoor activities, and from people themselves.

Air pollution in New Delhi

According to the WHO’s latest figures from 2017, six of the top ten most polluted cities in the world are in India. November 2017 has now become infamous for the 999+ reading of particulate matter concentration that contributed to air pollution.

According to the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, in 2015, 9 million deaths were caused by air pollution across the globe and 2.5 million of these deaths were in India. This was the highest number for a single country.

The US embassy was able to record a level of 1,010 on November 8, 2017 at 20:00 hours. The AQI recommended limit states a level of 100+ being perceived as unhealthy. With levels over ten times of the same, no person was spared from feeling the discomfort of such pollution. Berkeley Earth, an independent non-profit, estimated that one day of inhaling air with an AQI of 999 is equivalent to smoking 45 cigarettes. The air pollution had compromised visibility to the extent of causing vehicle crashes. Flights and trains were cancelled and an emergency declared. The residents of Delhi were advised to stay indoors as much as possible however, despite unrelenting efforts to keep indoor air clean; the situation was untenable.

These horrific levels of air pollution are what Breathify aims to remedy. An AQI test of Breathify shows that it reduces the AQI of the room’s air from 390 down to just 4 in under one minute!

PollutantCausesEffect on Human Health

Particulate Matter

(PM10 / PM2.5)

Present in atmospheric sulphates, nitrates, NaCl, ammonia, black carbon, mineral dust, water etc.Toxic and carcinogenic compound that alters the immune system and may cause respiratory and cardiac problems.
Carbon MonoxideBy-product of any combustion activity, including emissions from motor vehicles and industrial unitsNausea, headaches, dysfunctional cardiovascular system, Impairs physical coordination, nervous inefficiency with possible permanent damage. Children and foetuses are at maximum risk.
Nitrogen OxidesPower generation and motor vehicle emissions

Causes infections, pulmonary diseases;

Impaired lung function and upper respiratory irritations.

Sulphur DioxideDomestic heating, cooking etc. and industrial emissionsCatalyst for acid rain, it causes respiratory discomfort, due to adverse impact on the lungs.
LeadIndustrial emissions, metal processing units and lead batteries

Depletes kidney function, causes neurological damage, respiratory and cardiac diseases, reproductive disorders;

Behavioural and IQ defects in children

Ground Level OzoneResult of a reaction of sun’s rays to compounds released by vehicles and industriesReduces lung efficiency and causes breathing obstruction and may develop into chronic illnesses.
BenzeneIndustrial and motor vehicle
Increases toxicity in humans thus causing bone marrow and other cancers.

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