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Gurgaon: Students wearing anti-air pollution mask as protective gear as pollution reached hazardous levels in the classroom. Photo: PTI
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Gurgaon: Students wearing anti-air pollution mask as protective gear as pollution reached hazardous levels in the classroom. Photo: PTI

Celebrated widely and with great pomp, Diwali is a period of joy, togetherness, and festivities in India. In the national capital, however, the festival also brought about a reality check last year, with Delhi’s air pollution reaching truly alarming levels. To be fair, Delhi, and most Indian metros for that matter have been experiencing miserable air quality for years now. We’ve all wondered at the blanket of smog that greets us on winter mornings, maybe even shared a picture or two. What set the alarm bells ringing in Delhi, though, was not only the numbers – data revealed that the air quality index had reached the maximum limit of 500 in several spots in the city – but also the resultant health hazards that started to crop up among Delhiites during and after Diwali.

Air alert

A long time resident of Delhi’s Mayur Vihar, Abhishek Sahay recounts his last Diwali as a series of hospital runs and doctor appointments. “Despite hardly stepping out of doors during the festival days, my entire family was severely affected during Diwali. Both my son and my daughter (ages 7 and 10, respectively) experienced sore throats, persistent coughs, and watering eyes. It was worse still for my parents, both senior citizens, who had come down to Delhi for Diwali—especially my father who is asthmatic. What was meant to be a family reunion after ages instead became a nightmarish week for all of us." Sahay was not exaggerating. Hospitals across the city reported a rise in cases of respiratory distress, with elderly and children being the worst hit.

PhD student Tanisha Punwani visited Delhi for a six-month project at Jawaharlal Nehru University, last November, landing right in the middle of a smog-filled nightmare. A resident of Goa, Punwani remembers being completely out of commission during her first three weeks in the city, with a variety of respiratory troubles she had never experienced before. “I was advised not to step out at all, under no circumstances, which kind of made it impossible for me to get any fieldwork done. Eventually, I had to postpone my project and move back home to recuperate for a while," she explained.

Seeking answers

Unfortunately for Sahay, whose life and work is rooted in Delhi, moving out was not an option. Even though pollution levels subsided slightly a few weeks after Diwali, they’re still quite an alarming statistic when compared to major cities in the world. Concern for his family’s health led the 45-year-old banking professional to amass vast amounts of information on the nature and impact of Delhi’s toxic air quality—eventually discovering that staying indoors was no solution either. The air we breathe in our homes, cars, and offices can be equally and sometimes even more harmful that outdoor pollutants. Basically, as Sahay realized, there was no hiding from it.

Despite India’s incredible pollution levels, the country is still relatively new to the concept of air purifiers. “I first heard of Honeywell air purifiers after reading a recommendation on Facebook by a friend who lives in my society. Knowing it to be a well-known global brand with a strong tech background, I decided to explore further," he explains.

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Sustainable solutions

As a company, Honeywell has been working on innovations that offer sustainable and energy-efficient solutions to critical challenges that impact our everyday lives. Sahay recounts that while browsing the Honeywell website for more information, he not only got better clarity on understanding the role and function of an air purifier, but also the specifications that would best suit his requirements in Delhi. “Indoor air pollution became my biggest concern. I wanted to have an assured air quality at home, even as I couldn’t control what my family and I are subjected to outside."

After much deliberation and study, Sahay opted for a Honeywell Air Touch purifier in Champagne Gold, both due to its attractive appearance as well as the reasonable filter cost. With a capacity to cover up to 450 sq. ft. area, it comes equipped with three filters, each serving a unique purpose. For instance, the HiSivTM filter works on removing formaldehyde, VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and odor, while the HEPA removes PM2.5 (Particulate Matter) from indoor air. Powered with a honeycomb design and molecular sieves with activating agents, the HiSivTM technology adsorbs harmful gases, without taking away the moisture in the air. It also comes with an infra-red dust sensor, and helpful indicators that point out when a filter needs to be replaced.

“We’ve been using it in our living room throughout the evening – my kids switch it on as soon as they’re back from school," says Sahay. The effects, as he observed, were slow but steady. Within a week, the air inside his house ‘felt’ cleaner, but the real proof as he discovered was in the filters. “I recently cleaned the pre-filter and if the amount of dust trapped in the filter is any indication of the polluted air my family would have been breathing otherwise, I’d consider this an important investment."

As citizens, there is a lot we can to do reduce the ongoing air quality crisis, whether through car- pooling or eco-friendly energy sources – but we cannot change the scenario overnight. Thankfully, we have a little more control over our homes, offices, and personal spaces, and can ensure that these remain safe havens for our families and loved ones. The Honeywell Air Touch range of air purifiers addresses this critical quandary of air pollution inside Indian homes, with products that are easy to use, install, and maintain.

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