The first time I wrote on air pollution in Jan 2022, it was in the form of a Q & A. The 8th question and its answer went like this.
8. What can we as individuals do to reduce the impact of air pollution on our health?
These can be divided into two main categories; reducing pollutants and reducing risk.
Reducing pollutants means not using stoves with fuel that produce smoke and not using incense sticks (agarbattis) in enclosed rooms. At an environmental level, it would also mean moving eventually to electric cars.
Reducing risk can be further divided into measures that we take based on the pollution levels on that day versus permanent measures.
Permanent measures include the use of appropriate air filters in our offices and homes, efficient air conditioning in our homes and in our cars with our windows up when traveling within the city.
Variable measures depend upon the AQI at that time…
Air pollution is a classic example of the “tragedy of the commons.” The best way to reduce air pollution is via legislation and measures that benefit the commons, not just single individuals and while our Government is figuring out ways to reduce air pollution, the impact will take years or decades, which is not a period most individuals are willing to wait to let their lungs and bodies become the target of PM2.5 and other noxious particles.
During President Obama’s visit to India in 2015, the US Embassy bought 1800 air purifiers, which were installed in all the places where President Obama was to visit, because the AQI had touched 222, a very unhealthy level, not just for someone from the US, but as we have discussed before, for everyone in Delhi as well. High AQI and PM2.5 levels reduce lifespan and healthspan. Period. Those in less polluted areas live longer. Period.
This is not just restricted to US Presidents. An RTI in Assam revealed that during a visit to Kaziranga with family, of the more than Rs. 1 crore allegedly spent on President Ram Nath Kovind’s trip in Feb 2022, Rs. 1 lakh or so was allegedly spent on an air purifier. I have been told by a prominent chest physician in Delhi that every politician worth their salt and every high income family that can afford to, are surrounded by air purifiers at home and in office, sometimes even carrying portable ones in their cars. The only time they don’t have air purifiers to “purify” the air they breathe, is if and when they leave their houses to run or walk on the roads or in the gardens of Delhi.
This is of course a classic example of health inequity, wherein those with means and resources are able to take steps and measures to improve their healthspan and lifespan, as against those without such means, who are left behind and live shorter lives with more suffering .
The question then is simple. Leaving aside social inequity qualms, if you can afford to, should you buy air purifiers and install them in every room that you are likely to be in, whether it is at home or in the office?