Is clean air a luxury, a nice to have or a necessity? Well, firstly you need to understand that our body needs 3 raw materials to thrive – food, water and air. While we can live without food for 3 weeks, water for 3 days, we would not make it across the 3-minute mark without air. Also, while we consume 1-3 liters of food in a day, 2-5 liters of air in a day, we inhale 12,000 liters of air – 24,000 breaths of about 0.48 liters with each breath. This amounts to 14 kg of air inhaled each day, larger than food and water combined.
14 of the top 14 worst air quality Cities are in India according to a WHO survey of 4300 Cities around the World. From Ahmedabad to Kolkatta, our air is severely polluted across the Indo-Gangetic plain. The presence of high concentrations of nanoparticles, called PM2.5, that are an established carcinogen, begs the question – is clean air a luxury or a compliance issue to meet occupational health and safety standards?
Bad air affects our health, our productivity, our cognitive well-being, our emotional well-being and our productivity and performance. In developed economies, there are established standards that businesses must comply with for Indoor air and environment quality. Businesses have to comply with these health and safety standards or they are shut down.
In India, even our hospitals where infection control is a clear mandate, these health and safety standards are looked upon as a luxury, a nice to have. While the Operation Theatre has HEPA filters to remove PM2.5, a toxin, the ICU and patient recovery rooms is laden with PM2.5 as the building is not engineered to remove these pollutants. Speaks volumes about the value of human life in our Country. Healthcare has become such a commercial activity that even doctors choose to ignore this in Cities where the PM2.5 levels are being put in your face, daily.
Consumers have to rise and demand change – our kids go to school/college, you stay in a hotel, or are admitted to a hospital, or your place of work, or you visit a theatre or restaurant for entertainment – should these establishments provide a ‘safe’ environment for their patrons or occupants?
It is estimated that the residents of Delhi smoke an average of 6.5 cigarettes daily or 2,400 cigarettes per year, just by breathing.
There are Green solutions available that can engineer indoor environments which meet and exceed International standards of health and safety – the management of these schools, offices, hotels, hospitals, cinemas, restaurants can’t care about our health and safety, if we don’t!!
I urge you to be aware and demand change – ask about the indoor air quality, wherever you go. As more and more start asking the question, I am certain that it will sow the seeds of change.
Again, we need to decide if we want to simply survive or thrive!!