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Pollution is our Enemy No.1. And, no doubt it’s more deadly than even the terrorism, which can be combated, smashed and crushed but controlling pollution has become such an arduous task, for Delhi-NCR that is slowly heading towards becoming a gas chamber.
It’s not that Government, Institutions and public at large are inactive to control it. But the magnitude of pollution has become so enormous that every new action to contain it become a drop in the ocean. Every time, it again upsurges with a further larger size and higher magnitude. Every step to contain it, from Odd-Even scheme to closing industries in Delhi to banning Generators all seems futile when it comes to result.
Then, in such a dying scenario, what shall we do?
Shall, we sit silent and keep watching to succumb to it shortly, or shall we apply our wisdom and go to the root cause to control it now, if we fail in nipping it in the bud.
I believe the second part sounds wiser, to understand the cause of pollution and to eradicate it, no matter, what it costs, what it takes and how-so-ever challenging it is.
Let’s take a deep dive and explore what contributes to outdoor pollution.
What are the most significant contributors to major air pollutants?
There are hundreds of contributors that lead to air pollution. But here, are the major contributors that result in more than 96% of the entire gamut.
So, these were the main culprits pushing us in the gas incubator and taking our life. Now, let’s have a look at the major air pollutants caused by these significant contributors.
What are the major Air Pollutants in outdoor pollution?
There are several monsters, which contributes to outdoor pollution. But we will restrict ourselves to the top 7, that leads to more than 98% of the total pollution in Delhi and NCR. Here we go -
The Photochemical oxidants are formed during photochemical reactions in the atmosphere. Though, they have short lifetimes but keeps on generating and dying due to the chemical reactions that lead to pseudo-steady-state concentrations, which can be inhaled. These photochemical oxidants are the continuous cause that keep on adding to the pollutants.
Hydrogen peroxide, acids, reactive radicals, peroxyacetyl nitrate and VOCs, SVOCs, and non-volatile organic compounds are few of the most dangerous photochemical oxidants that needs immediate attention.
2. Particulate Matter:
Particulate matter is the sum total of all particles suspended in the air and includes both solid and liquid particles. Many of these particulates are extremely hazardous and are near-fatal. They include organic and inorganic particles, both like dust, pollen, smoke, soot and liquid droplets, to name a few.
Most hazardous among them are Coarse PM that are with aerodynamic diameters ranging from 2.5 μm and 10 μm. They are broadly generated by the Physical processes that include resuspension of soil and road dust, sea spray, vehicular abrasion, agricultural tiling, vehicular abrasion and fugitive dust emissions from industrial sources. And all these factors can be controlled with a little effort.
3. Sulfur Dioxide
Sulfur dioxide, SO2 is naturally emitted from microbial activity in the ocean and from the anaerobic degradation of organic material happening in terrestrial environments, though the anthropogenic emissions are much larger
The urban and industrialized areas the combustion without emission controls of sulfur-containing fuels and another roasting of sulphide ores to make metal oxides during metal processing are the major cause.
Very high exposure to SO2 occurs from coal burned in residential heating and cooking.
4. Carbon monoxide, CO:
Carbon Monoxide is formed due to incomplete combustion because of poor mixing of combustion air and combustion fuel. On-road transportation (gasoline- or diesel-powered engines), off-road engines, and biomass burning activities are the major sources of outdoor CO.
In rural areas the biomass burning for cooking or heating are the main sources of CO. Forest fires, and the uncontrolled burning of vegetation are the largest source of CO in Delhi and NCR.
5. Nitrogen oxides:
The fossil fuel combustion and biomass burning are the major sources of Nitrogen oxides.
In urban areas power generation, diesel-powered engines, and gasoline-powered engines are the dominant sources of fossil fuel combustion, creating havoc.
The combustion of solid fuels in residences and other microbial activity in the soil are the major contributors in rural areas that are going unabated, resulting in NO2.
It is the primary pollutant that is largely emitted from the agricultural practices like livestock waste, spreading manure and the use of synthetic fertilizers.
6. Lead and other Toxic Metals
7. Other Organic compounds that include VOC’s SVOC’s besides particulate organic matter
The fossil fuel, partially combusted components of fossil fuel, and pyrolysis products of fossil fuel; besides industrial chemical, food cooking, and biomass burning emissions causes thousands of organic compounds in the atmosphere.
Organic compounds that are emitted from the combustion sources like benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein, 1,3-butadiene and others are carcinogens and are severely hazardous to humans
Consumer products as solvents, paints and other stationary combustion are the major causes of VOCs in Delhi and NCR.
The other industrial facilities lead to aromatic VOCs, oxygenated VOCs, and halogenated VOCs that results in additional organic compounds.
Other particulates are Volatile metals that include mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, Mineral dust and fibres and Bioaerosols also contributes to pollution.
The Present Scenario in Delhi and NCR
In Delhi, as per Central Pollution Control Board, there are close to twenty to twenty-five areas that lie in severely polluted zones out of which, nine comes under very poor air quality areas.
And, in NCR Faridabad, Ghaziabad and Noida come under severely polluted while Gurgaon comes under very poor air quality area.
The Air Quality Index level in Delhi and NCR hovers close to 416 after Diwali, making it worst area to live in with Government releasing notifications to common people to stay in homes with closed windows and doors leave aside going for morning walks or doing exercise outside.
The poor wind speed as well as poor ventilation index both often delayed the recovery to normalcy. The slow wind leads to persistence of fog (as it doesn’t get dispersed), which further get worse with rapidly multiplied finer particles and bring PM-2.5 as well as PM-1 to worse levels.
Breath fresh Solutions a Delhi based organization is promoting a healthier lifestyle by creating cleaner indoor air naturally and can be reached at https://breathefresh.in/
What is VOC?
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals with high vapor pressure emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids that people commonly use in the household. It includes different types of chemicals which can post short- and long-term ill effects on people’s health. Since they are gases, concentrations of VOCs are ten times higher inside houses and buildings which make up the indoor pollution.
Sources of VOCs
Organic chemicals that are classified as VOCs are common ingredients in many household products. These chemicals such as formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, tetrachloroethylene, and ethylene glycol among many others are unknowingly in the atmosphere of our house. These chemicals are emitted while we decorate or beautify our homes, clean our homes beautify ourselves or even when doing our hobbies. As such, this type of pollution in India comes as silent killers in the midst.
VOCs that emanate from building materials included paint, wood preservatives, varnishes and other solvents, caulks, glues, adhesives, carpet, vinyl flooring, upholstery and foam. VOCs are also present in home & personal care products such as air fresheners, cleansers and disinfectants, make up and cosmetics, aerosol sprays, moth repellents and even air fresheners. Typical home activities such as smoking, dry cleaning, cooking, doing our hobbies, burning wood also release VOCs from the things that we use. Other common VOC sources included automotive supplies like oil, gasoline, pesticide and insecticides, as well as office equipment like photocopiers and printers, correction fluids and carbon paper, and markers.
What are safe levels?
AQI or the air quality index is a measure used by government agencies to determine air quality which indicates how clean or polluted indoor air. Since, VOC’s are primarily gasses, this measure is important as it will foretell if indoor pollution is within safe levels. As AQI increases, the chances of causing adverse health effects are also high.
VOC does not only contaminate the air that we breathe. It could also contaminate the ground making our water unsafe. In lieu of which "Maximum Contaminant Levels" (MCLs) have been by governments in order to identify how that maximum amount of contamination can be tolerated before making drinking water unsafe. Based solely on human health, the Maximum Contaminant Level goals (MCLG) for each contaminant differ. For chemicals that are known as carcinogenic, the MCLG is set at zero. Note that a combination of these VOCs can have more serious health effects to people.
How to Reduce VOC contamination?
Reduce Chemical Use. The best way to reduce VOC contamination and protect your health is to limit exposure to products and materials that contain VOCs by reducing use of products that contain them. This means minimizing if not avoiding the use of aerosol consumer products that use VOCs as propellants such as air fresheners, hairsprays and insecticides. Use alternative products that do not emit VOCs. Instead of air fresheners, use oil based scented candles. Instead of hairsprays, use gels. And use water based insecticides or paints as well. It would also be prudent to use natural cleaning materials like baking soda and vinegar instead of using organic cleaning solvents which contains VOCs.
Avoid storing smelly stuff in living spaces. One way to avoid storing VOC emitting stuff in your place, you should only purchase just enough of what you need especially when it comes to paints and adhesives, etc. These products release VOCs into the air and can contaminate your living space.
However, if you no choice but to store said products in your home, you should store this products in tightly sealed containers located in places away from your living space such as in a garage or shed. If you have no storage room, it is better to dispose of these unused products than risk your home of VOC contamination.
Finally, another way to avoid storing these foul smelling chemical products is to buy instead low-VOC options of paints and furnishing. Check the labels of the products and look for warning signs or information that said products emit less VOC.
Use your nose. It’s easy to detect if you are whiffing VOCs in your home simply by smelling it. The foul or hurting scent of VOCs typically associated with paints, detergents and cleaning products can be identified by your nose and its corresponding effect on your head.
As such, you should follow your nose and make necessary adjustments if you are experiencing foul scent. For instance, if you smelling something bad, ventilate the area. If you smell that certain products like your new furnishings or carpets smell like plastic, set them outside to let the fumes off. When you want to paint your house, do so with open windows and use a fan to ventilate the room in order to dissipate the fumes. If you smell the paint or varnish that you hid, check for its seal if it’s leaking gas or place it far from your living space. Your nose is your no. 1 natural detector for VOC pollution in your home.
Use natural products like Activated Charcoal Bags and Essential Oils. If you want to clean and purify the air in your home or office, the best way to do it is to use natural products instead of chemical air fresheners. Among the products that you can use are as follows:
Ventilation. Ventilation is a means of introducing ambient air into a space for regulating indoor air quality by displacing indoor pollutants including VOCs. This can be done simply by opening doors and windows and artificially by using electric fans to increase air from the outside to get in and air from the inside to get out. By circulating the air inside the room, you will be able to blow away pollutants that get trapped in a room.