“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”
― Sylvia Plath
Yes! That is precisely why we rush into the lap of Mother Nature! The change of air is a common panacea for tired and depressed souls. The salubrious air of the hills is no less than a divine feeling. The industrial and other pollution has damaged the air quality in plains like never before and even the indoor air which was perceived as ‘safe’ and ‘cleaner’ has become toxic; in fact it is five times dirtier than the air outside. We cannot always rush to green mountains for a change. Rather, we must change the air at the place we reside and breathe day in and out. It has become imperative to tackle this issue urgently.
It was a humid Wednesday morning when I spotted my neighbor taking her husband, who was visibly weak and tired, somewhere. As it was a working day, it piqued my interest a bit and I asked the lady. With a drooping face she replied that he had been coughing constantly for last two days and had to take a leave that day. She told me that all that was because of the lack of fresh air and the industrial pollution. They both are in their sixties and in this age, these effects manifest very quickly. I will get back to it later; firstly let us ponder more over this thing- why a simple thing like air has become a precious commodity? I was a kid when the fashion of mineral water arrived in India. It was a clear sign of the forthcoming paucity of clean water which we now can notice clearly. Similarly, these rising pollutants in air and sale of air masks is a sign that breathing air is going to be far dirtier in times to come. In Mexico, people purchase pure air; this fact throws much light on the degrading quality of atmosphere. These days, every car is air-conditioned and literally, people travel in small AC pockets that emit heat outside, making temperatures soar each year. The ‘environment’ is going haywire.
What exactly do we mean when utter this word? The dictionary defines the word ‘environment’ as
‘The surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates.’
We need to understand the basic thing clearly- that we cannot leave, cannot just go away, there is no ‘other’ place. The aim is to keep ourselves healthy as air pollution is just one of the many health hazards that now bother us. ‘Air pollution’ is a very wide term and many factors are responsible for it, most of which are beyond a common man’s approach. However, on an individual layman level, we can do our bit by ensuring that the air we breathe in is clean, that is, we can focus on indoor air. Now, it is a huge myth that indoor air is clean and it is far safer. Indoor air can be 5 times more unclean than the air outside. How is it possible? This looks like a laughable thing! If this is true, then where are we supposed to go and take refuge from all the pollution outside? Where is that place that can give us a breath of relief?
“Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.”
― Henry David Thoreau
The answer lies in our own homes; just a bit of thought and attention is required. There are many factors that contribute to a dirty indoor air like
· Insects (dead or alive)- According to a study conducted by the Delhi University's ‘Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute’, mosquitoes are the second most common cause of allergy in patients suffering from asthma and rhinitis. Yes, sadly, that dead mosquito too, pollutes indoor air.
Weeds and pollen- The allergy to pollen is one of the most common allergies.
· Roaches- Who does not abhor the sight of creepy brown roaches? The fine hair on their limbs can trigger many allergies and cause asthma.
· Dust- Dusting the furniture may be good but have you ever wondered where does all this dust go? It eventually settles inside the house over the floor. So, when we are dusting the house, we are displacing the dust, not eliminating it.
· Bathroom Odors- In cities when living spaces are compact and bathrooms are inside the rooms, the dirty air needs a good exhaust but sometimes, it can mix with indoor air and make it dirtier.
·Other Things- for example unused stuff like old books, medicines, clothes, shoes, incense sticks, fuel, perfumes, deodorants, roach killing sprays, liquid mosquito repellents, fine pet hair and even stale vegetables can greatly increase the indoor pollution.
The natural question that arises now is, what is to be done to tackle all this as neither it is possible not to use these things and nor to throw all these out of the house. Luckily, there are various steps that we can take to ensure a cleaner air in our homes. A cleaner air not only means a good health but also, sturdier long term immunity and less of chronic health problems. If you have elderly and children living with you, these measures are no longer a matter of choice but are urgent and necessary.
A dirty indoor air can bring dizziness, fatigue and even severe throat soreness. My neighbor too, has taken many measures to clean indoor air for her husband’s constant coughing. According to EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) the long term effects of a foul indoor air can be horrifying. Issues such as severe respiratory diseases, heart diseases and cancer can be fatal, and all these stem from a low IAQ (Indoor Air Quality). There are various steps we can take but before that it is important to know how dirty the indoor air is and as there is no rating scale. We can check for the signs like-
- Any palpable smell in the air.
- Poor ventilation- fewer windows or doors & windows, usually latched.
- No or damaged chimneys- Modular kitchen chimneys that are easily affordable are good.
- Too much humidity- It provides a good breeding ground for bacteria and mold.
- Hairy pets- can cause asthma. Yes, that cuddly pet can give you health troubles as well.
- Too much burning- If you are using too much incense or dhoop batti or candles, as is usual in Indian homes, the indoor air may become laden with pollutants.
- No plants- Plants clean air naturally and some potted plants can help a lot.
- Smoking- If anyone in your home smokes, it will surely give two times more damage.
Now, we know where the problem lies and once the enemy is obvious, making fool proof strategy is easier. There are many steps we can take to clean indoor air
1. Good paint- High quality paint like Royale Atmos which reduces formaldehyde levels by 80-85% in 24 hours under standard test conditions can greatly help in constantly purifying indoor air.
2. Good Ventilation- Using modular chimneys in kitchens and exhaust fans in toilets and bathrooms can help a lot. More outdoor air should be made to enter indoors through doors and windows.
3. Pets- If you have pets with fine hair, you should use a good vacuum cleaner as these fine fibers can cause respiratory troubles.
4. Hobbies- If your hobbies include activities like woodwork, welding, oil painting or such, a separate studio or space must be arranged with an exhaust fan.
5. Indoor plants- Certain houseplants can be used to improve IAQ greatly.
We spend more time indoors, especially when we sleep at night. It is the time when the body repairs and heals itself, thus it makes the air quality an important part of the healing process. I am a plant lover and there are certain plants that clean air like magic. Some of them are-
1. Garden Mum (Crysanthemum Morifolium)- As per NASA, these cleanse indoor air of dissolved ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene.
2. Weeping Fig (Ficus Banjamina)- It can grow up to ten feet tall and is common in India. It removes benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.
3. Snake Plant (Sansevieria Trifasciata) - Funnily, this plant is also known as ‘Mother-in-law’s Tongue’! This can be grown in very hot conditions and does not require regular watering hence it is useful for busy and working people.4. Aloe vera- The most beloved plant these days! All the skin and hair care companies going nuts over this plant! It is called ‘Ghritkumari’ in Sanskrit as it has been said that its benefits are as valuable as those offered by ‘Ghee’. Your friendly Aloe can help clean the air too!
These little wonder plants are available very easily and do not require much care. By the way, my neighbor’s husband is fine now and is taking medicines for his chronic cough. This is just one case out of many where the degrading air quality has started showing ill effects on health.
“The generation that destroys the environment is not the generation that pays the price. That is the problem.”
― Wangari Maathai
Life is important; all talks of art, culture, passions and change are useless if we suffer from chronic diseases and spend years in curing ourselves. Life is not about wasting days in hospital or in a chemist’s queue. It is about vitality, health and activity- all of which create our happiness. It is not always possible to bring huge change in old patterns and routines as there are many factors that make up an environment. Air pollution is a macro thing; many factors go into damaging the quality of air. However, by taking precautionary measures and by following simple steps like keeping potted plants or using good wall paint, we can keep IAQ high.
It always pays to be proactive; even if symptoms are not palpable. Measures taken at the right time can eliminate the chances of these potential health disasters. With rising health care costs, and medical negligence as well, as is the condition in India, prevention is better than cure.
Asian Paints bring ‘Royale Atmos’, a fantastic wall paint that helps clean the indoor air without compromising on style and beauty! So, no fear of wall discoloration and peeling off at all!
The Activated Carbon Technology in ‘Atmos’ helps cleanse the indoor air. It also absorbs some foul household smells. Moreover, it also releases fragrance giving you rid of those pungent chemical odors the paints typically have.
Check out this wonderful product on https://www.asianpaints.com/atmos
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