“I couldn’t step out of my Delhi home this winter,” says Eric Ledergerber, 38, a Zurich-based entrepreneur who travels between Delhi and Switzerland several times a year.
“I was born here, I’m familiar with Delhi’s winter smog, but this year I developed an itchy throat and chronic cough within three days of landing here in October,” says Lederberger, who lives in upscale Vasant Vihar.
His throat and chest miraculously cleared up when he visited Goa twice in December and Zurich in January. “I could actually feel the smog and particulates lodged in my throat”, he says. Ledergerber spent December scouting for and testing effective air-filters for his home, which included portable ones.
Suspended particulate matter (SPM-10 and SPM2.5) found in vehicular exhaust and construction dust, causes irreversible damage to the respiratory tract and lung tissue. “Combined with ground-level ozone, the main constituent of smog, SPM aggravates asthma and wheezing and lowers lung function even in healthy people,” says Dr JC Suri, head of pulmonary medicine & critical care, Safdarjung Hospital.
Lederberger is just one of many in Delhi and NCR obsessing over the foul air they breathe . Medha Kapoor, 35, bought an air purifier last month and now uses a mask when she goes out running in the morning. “I read that air quality in Delhi is worst at night and early morning because the cold causes the emissions and fumes from late-night trucks to blanket the city,” she says. “I don’t want to die to stay fit.”
Commercial air purifiers range from Rs 15,000 to one lakh, depending on the space and quality of filters. Barun Aggarwal, 40, got an air purifier in every room at his home at Feroze Shah Road after his son Krish, 5, started coughing and wheezing when they moved to India from the US a little over two years ago.
His research and the many queries from people led Aggarwal to set up a company called Breathe Easy that provides clean-air solutions to home-owners. “In just eight months, we’ve grown from zero to 850 homes.” he says.For those who are short on cash, there is always good Indian ingenuity. “I’ve got commercial air-purifers but I like the one I call a ‘jugaad’ filter best. It’s basically a fan with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arrestance) filters that clean the air by using densely matted fibres to trap dust and dirt particles,” he says.“It costs just `3,000 to put together but is as effective as the commercial ones,” he says. “If I leave it on in a closed room all day, the filters get chocked by evening,” he says.