Fighting for a healthy life

In this photograph taken on November 3, 2018, a man wears a face mask near the installation of a giant set of lungs at Sir Ganga Ram hospital in New Delhi. - Smog kills more than one million Indians every year and Delhi has the worst air of any major city on the planet, the World Health Organization says. A giant pair of artificial lungs was set up outside the Sir Ganga Ram hospital and fitted with filters to demonstrate the damaging effects of smog in the Indian capital. (Photo by Chandan KHANNA / AFP) / TO GO WITH India-health-pollution, FOCUS by Abhaya SRIVASTAVA

My lungs were almost destroyed due to air pollution. In November last year, while I was training for a long-distance race in Delhi one evening, I started wheezing. Initially, I thought that it was not something serious. But later, I started having frequent headaches, itching and redness in the eyes and nasal irritation.

I visited several doctors who prescribed antibiotics, anti-allergic, steroids, nebulisers, and of course, innumerable blood and pulmonary function tests. But nothing worked. Those 11 months were really distressing for me.

After a US diplomat told me how severe the ill-effects of pollution are and that its unprecedented rise might be responsible for my deteriorating health, I ordered a few Vogmasks from San Francisco. I wore them religiously for three weeks. This cleansed my lungs and I stopped taking medication.

That is when I became an environmental activist and travelled to Beijing to acquire expertise in the field. There I spent time with government officials and entrepreneurs who were developing solutions or were working in labs to assess the quality of indoor and outdoor air. When I came back, I started looking for solutions to protect me and my family.

In 2015, my son had an asthma attack in school. Despite being one of the leading schools in Delhi, it was absolutely ill-equipped for such an emergency.

By the time they reached the hospital, we almost lost him. They had to move him to the emergency ward as his body had turned blue. And this is why this cause has become synonymous with who I am today. It is not just my business, but it is my personal agenda. I have suffered immensely due to the harmful effects of air pollution in our city and I do not want anyone else to go through the same.

My company – Nirvana Being – was born out of this incident. It was not a luxury, nor an option. I had to find ways to protect myself and I am scientific about what I use. I always challenge our politicians and bureaucrats publicly, but behind the cameras I have also extended a helping hand. I have urged them to take measures. But not all of them understand the urgency of this problem.

Air accessories like air masks and air filters should be efficient. Sometimes schools install air purifiers but do not put indoor plants to balance the air, which can lead to all the oxygen in the room being inhaled. The carbon dioxide level will become so high in the classroom that the children will not be able to learn. They become brain dead, half asleep, or fall in a semi-conscious state.

All the schools that are charging extra money from parents to install air purifiers inside classrooms, need to put it to use scientifically. But there is no expertise on this in India, so people are doing whatever they feel is logical. Such efforts might reduce PM 2.5 level in the classroom, but if the carbon dioxide level becomes high, how will a child remain healthy? Avoiding such a situation will require at least 100 plants in a classroom, which is practically not possible. But natural purifiers can be used to combat this.

Jai Gupta is an environmental activist and the founder of Nirvana Being.

— As told to Shruti Das

‘We live in a gas chamber’

If you are a smoker and you smoke 10 cigarettes a day for 40 years, nothing might happen to you for a long time. But at the end of 40 years, you might develop lung cancer. This is what the long-term effects of air pollution are.

It is scientifically proven that air pollution damages health in the long-term. There are various neurological studies done in Western countries that clearly establish the harm done by air pollution. It affects various aspects of human health – be it our lungs, kidney or heart.
It’s not that after buying a purifier one will witness a dramatic change in two weeks. But you can make out the difference. I too bought an air purifier to keep myself and my family safe from the polluted air. I think that is the only way to deal with the situation.
I also use air masks. If one is going out for a walk or for jogging on a polluted day, then it should be used. There are certain studies that suggest that N95 or N99 masks can provide protection up to 90% or more. The only way of surviving in this gas chamber-like city it is by protecting ourselves with these products.
Matthew John is a law teacher at OP Jindal Global University.

— As told to Shruti Das

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