A Delhi Mom On Raising Her Children In India’s Most Polluted City

When I moved to Delhi with my 18 month old, I was apprehensive. Not just because of how she would adapt to the new city, her new friends, the weather, etc. But the pollution- was the biggest scare. Touted as the most polluted city in the world, even topping the famous Beijing- Delhi is in the danger zone, when it comes to pollution.

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Just how Bad Is The Air?
The AQI (Air Quality Index) on a bright weekday, as I pen this article, is an astounding 233- which is deemed “Very Unhealthy”. The levels on other days have gone up to 300+ which comes under the “Hazardous” zone. The levels of pollution are measured on the basis of the particles suspended in the air, termed as PM10 and PM2.5 meaning Particulate Matter with diameter less than 10 micrometers and particulate matters with diameter less than 2.5 micrometer. The PM2.5, in particular is more dangerous as they extremely minute in size and do not settle, but remain suspended in air, contributing to the heavy pollution levels. The other factors include substances such as Ozone and Knox and Sox.

Parents are worried about getting their child exposed to such hazardous onditions which result in minor illness such as conte constant dry cough and cold to severe illness such as Respiratory tract infections, cardio-vascular problems and even cognitive functions impairment. Kids are synonymous with outdoor play- so what is the real solution to this evil?

The recent Odd-Even strategy that was implemented for a fortnight twice in the city- has been a marginal success in bringing the AQI down- but reports from CSE (Center for Science and Environment) suggest that after an initial dip in the pollution level during the Odd-Even period, there has been a steep rise and it has spiked up.

What can parents do?
As a parent- who is very much worried with my child’s persistent and frequent dry coughs- I realize it is up to each individual to act upon the issue.

Download the SAFAR-AIR App- an initiative by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Govt of India. It gives you accurate and locality wise details of the pollution levels- the exact value of the AQI- and indicating it with colour-coded system that describes whether the air is Good/Moderate/Poor/Very Poor/Severe.

When planning physical exercises for yourself and the kids, ensure you choose the right time. It is generally agreed that based on Delhi’s pollutions levels, early morning or Late Evenings are detrimental and harmful to health, especially for the kiddos. Choose late mornings- which can be beneficial as your child can get their dosage of Vitamin D as well.

Invest in a good Air purifier with HEPA filters that help in filtering out the dust particles to keep the indoors safe and clean. There are various sizes and prices to choose from.

Discuss with your kids’ schools if they can rearrange the play-time, so that kids are not affected when the levels are high. Also ensure the waiting area for your kids- where cars zoom in and out during pickup time is managed well and kids are not kept waiting for longer times.

Face Masks are another temporary option to use when stepping outdoors in the polluted areas. There are masks with various designs to enthrall kids out there in the market- chose them wisely! Make sure the carpets/ furniture fabrics that you buy or use in the house are washable. Clean them frequently and sun-dry them so that they don’t become a collecting place for moths and other dust-mites.

 Educate your child about the perils of pollution and the need to maintain a clean environment both inside and outside the house. Remember, a clean future is the biggest investment we can make for our kids.

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