Battle the Worst Impact of Smog

Diwali over, and people are choking again, face masks are on again, schools are closing to protect the students and their teachers, visibility is reduced to a few feet making trains run late, and flights are being diverted. The horrible practice of burning the crop residue or stubble of rice and wheat grains (which is a relatively new phenomenon) releases ozone into the atmosphere as it emits greenhouse gases such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), creating a heavy cloud of poisonous smoke. It was introduced to quickly clear farmlands as the harvesting machines only shred the upper part of the crops. Since all this occurs after the monsoons have retreated, and breezes drop; the particulate matter hanging in the air cause smog.

What is smog?

Smog is a portmanteau word that compresses smoke and fog together to convey the idea of impenetrable air which causes visibility to drop drastically, and makes normal breathing a challenge for even healthy people.

How Does Smog Impact You?

Smog threatens your life, not just your health. Poor visibility means that the likelihood of accidents on the road rise dramatically. It also means that fire service tanks can’t reach the point of fire outbreak swiftly, which might put lives into greater jeopardy. Also, patients who need to be rushed to hospital, especially asthmatic patients, and those who sustained a cardiac event get delayed on the road due to poor visibility. It adversely affects your attendance in office or college, adding stress to other distresses. According to a 2016 study conducted by WHO, poor air quality reduces life expectancy of residents in New Delhi by 6.3 years.

Background: Don’t imagine that only residents of Delhi, or of only north Indian cities are adversely impacted. Earlier, smog occurred only in the evenings during peak winter as the chullahs (coal fired stoves) were lit to cook the evening meal, and provide some warmth to the ladies of the house from the embers. The smoke mingled with the mist overhanging the city or village to create smog. The blinding, choking smog was something that happened in cities like London. Though coal fired stoves have been gradually replaced; the number of vehicles running on carbon fuel has increased in geometric progression.


Smog Can Put You in Hospital

Add the carbon emissions of diverse vehicles to crackers which are no longer restricted to only Diwali — but are burnt on festivals like Dashera, Chhath, New Year too; to celebrate electoral victories; victories on the sports fields, especially if it over Pakistan; birthdays of celebrities — any reason is good to set off fire crackers. The net result is air which chokes you; damages your arteries, and causes cardiovascular diseases; makes your eyes smart; aggravates chronic bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema; causes allergic reaction like watering, redness, and itching of the eyes; induces sniffles and sneezes to make you seriously ill. It is vital that people don’t wait for governments to do something; rather they can come forward to proactively battle smog.


Act Responsibly on a Personal Level

Take a unilateral decision to reduce carbon emissions. Begin austerity measures at home. Keep your car or cars in the garage as far as possible. Pool vehicles, and use public transport whenever you can. You don’t need to take the dog for an outing in the car. Put her/him on a leash, and go for a walk. It will be good for your own, and your furry baby’s health. Adolescent children can learn to ride a pushbike. It is better that you gift a bicycle rather than a motorbike to your growing kids.
Do this: However, if the air quality around your home, office, or your child’s college or school is very poor, you might want to use close fitting pollution masks and shades, or eyeglasses without power to protect the eyes. Gargle several times with salted warm water to cleanse your throat, and rinse your eyes with cool, fresh water to prevent burning.


Create a Win-Win Situation: Stop Burning Biomass Mindlessly

It isn’t simply crop stubbles, but fallen leaves, old grass, twigs, and paper also shouldn’t ever be burned. Not only does that add to atmospheric pollution; it serves to degrade soil quality. Rather, all these should be collected in a hole in the ground, and left to decompose to become organic manure which enriches the soil of your garden and fields. Some of the crop residues can be converted into animal feed for both cattle and poultry. You can also use paddy straw to grow mushrooms, which would generate employment at the rural level, while increasing sources of nutrition. Plant residues can be converted into paper, biodegradable plastics, fuel, and even used to make furniture.


Generate electricity from biomass:

Biomass can be converted into gas to serve as fuel for our kitchens. It can also be used for power generation. Plant residues can be a very valuable resource for transforming energy systems.


Set Up a Smog Free Tower

Corporate houses can take up setting smog free towers — giant outdoor air purifiers — as part of their CSR activities. Even large, multistoried buildings can invest in them with funding from the residents, just as many such buildings are investing in rainwater harvesting. Within your own homes and workplace, install air purifiers which remove particulate matter, not just dust. You could also grow money plant, aloe vera, dracaena, and bamboo plants in pots on the window sill, or balcony to purify the air inside the home. Limit outdoor activities as far as possible.


Make Nature Your Ally

Flush the toxins from your body by drinking plenty of water, the juice of citrus fruits like oranges, sweet limes, grapefruit, and fresh coconut water; eating fruits like pomegranate, cantaloupe, musk melon which are alkaline; adding jaggery to your daily diet; and drinking herbal teas like chamomile and mint leaf infusions, lemon tea, and ginger tea. Eat plenty of green vegetables, especially leafy greens, while going easy on animal flesh. You can also snack off dry fruits and nuts rather than chips and other processed snacks. These are good ways to protect your body naturally, since they provide you with the nourishment your system requires to improve immunity, while cleansing it.

Content Reviewed by – Asian Hospital Medical Editors