With the rising air pollution levels in the city, here’s how you can avoid being exposed to unhealthy air

According to World Health Organization, Delhi has become the most polluted city in the world. This is a cause of grave concern because air pollution has been linked to various life-threatening diseases including respiratory disorders, heart attacks, and strokes.

Given the crucial role played by the air we breathe on our overall health and well-being, it is crucial that awareness is raised about necessary prevention measures as well as the need to reduce the increasing environmental burden due to our everyday actions.

In order to reduce one’s exposure to unhealthy air, it is important that each one of us finds out the Air Quality Index (AQI)of the areas where we reside. If the AQI for ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, or sulfur dioxide is found to be high, then steps must be taken to protect oneself from its hazardous effects.

This can be done through a reduction in the everyday prolonged and heavy exertion. Prolonged exertion defines any outdoor activity that a person does intermittently for several hours, and that makes them breathe slightly harder than normal. A good example of this is working in the yard for part of a day. When air quality is unhealthy, you can protect your health by reducing how much time you spend on this type of activity. Heavy exertion on the other hand means intense outdoor activities that cause you to breathe hard. When air quality is unhealthy, you can protect your health by reducing how much time you spend on this type of activity, or by substituting a less intense activity—for example, go for a walk instead of a jog.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr. A Marthanda Pillai – National President IMA and Padma Shri Awardee Dr. K K Aggarwal, President HCFI and Honorary Secretary General IMA said, “It is important that people are aware of the air they breathe and the harmful effects it can have on their health. It is thus recommended that each one of us wear masks when out in the open, reduce our outdoor activity level if we experience any unusual coughing, chest discomfort, wheezing, breathing difficulty, or unusual fatigue or when the AQI levels are high in the region. It is also a great point of concern for all of us in the medical fraternity to see how the pollution levels in Delhi continue to increase and it is essential that awareness is raised, and necessary steps are taken to reverse this trend. Car-pooling must be encouraged, people must be encouraged to plant more trees, and environmental preservation is a must. We must realize that the air we are breathing today is a major cause of all lifestyle diseases. High-risk patients must take extra care.”

If the Air Quality Index (AQI) of ozone, PM 2.5/10, CO is between 0-50 then one must not worry and they are said to be in the safe zone. The air that they are breathing is said to be healthy and not dangerous for their health. For such patients, outdoor activities are recommended.

If the levels are between 51 – 100 then unusually sensitive people are advised to consider reducing their prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else is still considered to be in the safe zone and need not worry. If the levels are between 101- 150 then it should be considered as a warning sign for sensitive groups, which include patients with lung diseases such as asthma, young children and the elderly. They should reduce their outdoor exertion levels and ensure to get outdoor exercises during the early hours of the morning when the air is at its freshest form.
AQI levels between 151- 200 are overall considered unhealthy for all and dangerous for the sensitive groups of people. Here all individuals are advised to reduce prolonged and heavy exertion. Sensitive groups are on the other hand advised to avoid completely any prolonged or heavy exertion.

AQI levels between 201 – 300 are considered extremely unhealthy and heart and lung disease patients, the young and elderly are advised not to engage in any outdoor physical activity and all those not in the danger zone are advised to reduce outdoor exertion to the minimal given the harmful particles in the air which can aggravate diseases such as asthma.