In the last 2 decades, Air Pollution has emerged as the new and ‘silent killer’. According to a WHO Report, worldwide, in 2008, 1.3 million and 2 million deaths were attributed to ambient and indoor air pollution respectively. In just 4 years, the same figures had grown to 3.7 million and 4.3 million. While Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease get all the attention in media and our thinking, few people realize that if left unchecked, deaths due to Air Pollution could reach epidemic proportions.
Pollutants in the outside or ambient air that we are exposed to, as well as the indoor air that we breathe can wreak havoc on our bodies and health. Dust, allergens, pollen, suspended chemical particles and toxic gases can affect our respiratory, nervous, circulatory, digestive and urinary systems. They can trigger or aggravate conditions like cardio-cerebral vascular disease, ischemic heart disease, asthma, lung cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
What is COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the body’s response to continued exposure to pollutants in the air. Symptoms of COPD include chronic inflammation in the airways and lungs. Continued exposure to pollutants in particulate matter, or infection from them can aggravate the symptoms. The person may require emergency medical care or long-term hospitalization, and in rare cases, COPD for some even cause death. It causes a range of complications including Pneumonia, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), Depression, Heart failure and Frailty.
Managing Air Pollution is vital to combating COPD. Ambient air pollution is a societal or governmental matter that one has little control over. One can use gas masks in such a case. These are of 2 types of masks:
A. Surgical or Plain face masks which prevent droplets and large Particulate Matter (PM) of 100 microns thickness from entering your lungs. These cannot filter out fine particles such as PM 2.5
B. N95 and R95 face masks are efficient filter masks which can absorb as high as 95% of airborne particles in the inhaled air
Gas masks have the disadvantage that they can get uncomfortable and cannot be worn for long. Further, wearing it continuously can reduce the efficiency of filtration or chemical absorption.
Air Purifiers as a more sustainable solution
Indoor air pollution can be better managed using Air Purifiers. They may seem a little expensive initially but this is more cost-effective than the medical expenses that come from treating COPD.
Air purifiers also known as air filters, sanitizers, or cleaners, are electronic machines that remove mold, dust, or pollen particles from the indoor air in a room. They can be either portable, or fixed to the wall or ceiling. In the latter case, one Air Purifier is required in every room.Filtering can be mechanical, electrical, electrostatic or chemical, and accordingly, there are different categories of filters.
HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) purifiers: These have pleated filters that trap tiny air particles.
Electric cleaners: These use electrically charged plates to trap particles.
Ionizers: These emit electrically-charged ions which attach to air particles in the room and in turn cling to the curtains, walls, and floor or ceiling tiles.
The efficiency or rating of Air purifiers is decided by a factor called MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value). The higher the number, the better, as then the purifier can clean as much as 99% of the fine particles from indoor air.
With commercial and industrial activity accelerating in most countries of the world, air pollution will be a problem for a long time to come. The use of air purifiers is then inevitable to combat ailments such as COPD and improve quality of human life.
If you are experiencing the effects of air pollution,Health Travellers Worldwide, an NABH accredited health advisory can direct you to experienced Pulmonologists and Allergy Specialists.