By Srishti Tiku

As we Delhiites grapple with pollution in the city, at some point we’ve wondered if it’s a good idea to buy a mask or an air purifier. Is it worth the money? Is it really effective? Maybe we could leave the decision for another day? 

There are several myths and opinions around their efficacy and effectiveness at tackling air pollution.  While some people think that AC rooms don’t require air purifiers, others feel that they are effective only when you are in close proximity, while some others believe they really aren’t effective in tackling indoor air pollution. Similarly, people are reluctant to buy masks because they believe air pollution doesn’t affect them, or breathing polluted air makes them immune to it.

The fact, however, is that air purifiers do clean the air we breathe, and masks are effective devices for filtering air pollution. They are effective in helping with common health problems caused due to polluted air around us.  The process of air filtration is a proven method to help clean the household air besides effectively reducing triggers for asthma and various allergic reactions, by managing them inside the house better. This in turn reduces reliance on medication for allergies and other respiratory/pulmonary problems.

Face masks and respirators, on the other hand, filter liquid and airborne particulate matter, both big and small (PM10 and PM2.5). These devices are known to filter out particles like allergens, bacteria, mould, viruses, fumes, dust and chemical gases.  Though the effects might not be instant, they prove to be beneficial in the longer run. Studies in fact reveal that indoor air quality can at times be up-to 5 times worse than the air outside. This could be due to many things that contribute to invisible air borne pollutants like cleaning supplies, building materials, painting and varnishing materials, incense, cooking fumes, dust particles, etc. Also, since homes are an enclosed space, this polluted air gets trapped and continues to circulate around the house.

What are some of the other myths and misperceptions that keep people from investing in good health? Why are residents of Delhi still reluctant to buy masks or air purifiers that would significantly help with many health problems? These are some of the questions which not many have bothered addressing, and which are in all probability the reason for disconnect between existing policies intended to tackle air pollution, and the extent to which they have actually been implemented. 

Srishti is an Associate with Envecologic. She holds a MS degree in Behavioral Economics from the University of Warwick, UK.