OMG! It's the indoor pollution that makes us sick
Created by Sumitra Gopal Updated on Oct 22, 2019
I was really looking forward to Saturday. It was the day my childhood buddy, Adity and her daughter were coming for a visit from India. I have recently moved to Singapore with my hubby and two kids and we miss our family and friends a lot – and I couldn't wait to welcome her and her 3-year-old- daughter Aahana. It was a long wait too; Adity and I had been planning this trip for over a year now. Little did I know while preparing for her visit that she was expecting her second child, so when she finally arrived at my doorstep with her baby bump, I was over the moon! More reasons to celebrate!
Our first few days went by in a jiffy. We roamed the streets of Singapore, soaking in the culture and eating our hearts out followed by long chat sessions, endless cups of tea and what not! Adity made several mentions of how she and her daughter had not felt this good in a long time – ofcourse, I took it as a compliment to my superb hosting abilities – but what she meant was that they were breathing better in the less polluted air of Singapore (as compared to Indian metros) and she could actually feel the difference.
Over the next few days, Aahana too was spared the otherwise daily bouts of either a runny nose or watery eyes or a sore throat. So we naturally credited it all to the cleaner air quality – but soon realised that while the outdoors was good, it is actually the indoors that matters the most!
One fine morning, after a week or so, we decided to stay indoors and I planned a brunch of aloo puri and halwa. But even before we sat down for the meal, Aahana’s, old allergy equivalent symptoms were back with a vengeance – she began to cough and wheeze – leaving me and my friend all puzzled. I couldn’t help but think aloud: “What had we done differently today? Nothing except that we made paranthas for breakfast and the air inside the house was fragrant with the aroma… and then I had lit an incense stick to rid the home of the cooking aromas… “And before I could finish, Adity gave a loud– “Oh yes, I know what it is!” …
Now Adity is an avid reader of anything related to health and this habit had almost become obsessive ever since she had learnt of her second pregnancy. Recently she had come across a news article that talked about indoor pollution and the term PM, which stands for “Particulate Matter”. PM, as she quickly explained to me, is the sum of all solid and liquid particles suspended in air, many of which are hazardous. This could be dust, pollen, soot, smoke...anything. Normal household activities like cleaning, cooking, dusting and so on increase the PM2.5 level in homes. According to WHO standards, 25 is the acceptable limit for PM2.5 and household activities like these can take the PM2.5 level up to 500.
So that is what had happened! The aroma that had tickled our tummies had also resulted in deteriorating the indoor air quality. I immediately opened up on the windows – to let out this PM from my home! This was a revelation to me. After my guests left, I did a bit of my own research. And here’s what I found out: Our bodies are extremely adaptable, rather "forgiving". We adjust and accommodate to our immediate environment as an auto reflex. Over a period of time we become habituated to breathing impure air in our own homes, our lung capacity decreases and we contract respiratory problems and allergic reactions, just as Aahana had done – and then all it takes is a little more to trigger a full-blown allergic attack. Breathing in the dense and improper air at home can also weaken the immune system over a period of time – and so it is even worse for new-borns, children and pregnant women.
While going through all the information I could find on indoor pollution, I also remembered how as children when we visited our grand parents' home I had always wondered why the kitchen was not a part of the main house. It was located at the far end, had big windows and faced the courtyard. I had found it to be very inconvenient to walk those extra steps to satiate my hunger every two hours! The reason stares me in the face now – it was a wise move to disallow the household fumes to enter the living quarters of the houses.
But the silver lining is this: For every technology related challenge, there always is a technology related solution as well! On her return to New Delhi, my friend Adity invested in a Honeywell’s air purifier since she read that it was recommended by the Indian Medical Academy. She is now more at peace knowing that her home is safe and ready to welcome her baby next month.
When I look back, my friend’s visit was a real eye-opener. Be it Singapore, India or any corner of the world, indoor pollution is a reality that we need to wake up to and take all the precautions we can to keep our family safe and healthy.
| Oct 29, 2017
it's an eye opening revelation.. had no idea that a place which is instrumental in satisfying our hunger , and where we spend major chunk of our time can actually produce indoor pollution which can be harmful to our children's and our health.. thanks for sharing this useful blog.
| Oct 30, 2017
No wonder smoke detectors are placed right outside the kitchen abroad as a standard procedure. The fear of fire alarm buzzing makes them avoid cooking too much of fried stuff that can generate smoke . i think in India as well this can be done to bring down indoor pollution. very apt blog. thanks for sharing Sumitra!