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For more than a week, Delhi-NCR has been plagued by air pollution and blanketed in smog. Masks, already in use to protect against the coronavirus, are now a must to protect against deadly pollution.
However, experts say that the regular masks need to be replaced.
Senior pulmonologist at the Apollo Hospital, Dr Rajesh Chawla, said that the Particulate Matter (PM) levels in most parts of the capital have reached “dangerous levels” and masks need a swift change.
“Two major constituents in the air are PM 10 and PM 2.5. The PM 2.5 levels in most of the parts of Delhi have reached dangerous levels,” Dr Chawla said.
Should Delhi NCR residents change their masks & start wearing N95 to safe? Watch as India Today’s @tweets_amit speaks to Dr Rajesh Chawla, Senior Pulmonologist, Apollo Hospital on the same. #ReporterDiary #Delhi #AirPollution #Smog pic.twitter.com/HTW0Y4vwoM
“PM 2.5 is a very fine particle. When it enters your body, it can reach the lungs’ periphery and even the alveoli (internal parts of lungs). And it can react and cause a lot of destruction. It can also be absorbed into the blood from there,” Dr Chawla, who heads the Respiratory and Critical Care Department at Delhi’s Apollo Hospital, explained.
“PM 2.5 causes not only local disease such as eye and throat irritation but also severe conditions such as chronic lung disease and stroke.” In addition, the chances of dying in extreme conditions increase.” he said.
The only way to prevent it is to reduce exposure, he added.
Read | ‘Wear masks’: Experts on ways to combat pollution and covid in Delhi during winter | Exclusive
“Three-ply masks can protect against particles above PM 3. It protects you from PM 2.5 by nearly 60 per cent,” said Dr Chawla.
However, if you want complete protection from PM 2.5, N95 masks are the best option.
“If you can afford it [N95] and have access to it, you should wear it,” Dr Chawla added.
Due to the high level of pollution, the doctor also advised people to wear masks when going outside.
Dr Akshay Budhraja, a senior pulmonologist at Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi’s Dwarka, agreed with Dr Chawla. He added that N95 masks are a must while stepping out.
“A simple surgical three-ply mask or a cloth mask can be worn at home or in the office. You must, however, wear an N95 mask, a pollution mask with a filter valve, or a double-layered cloth mask when leaving your home or office. This applies to anyone who spends even a minute outside,” Dr Budhraja said.
“It’s also critical to wear a mask that fits correctly, doesn’t leak, and covers your nose all the way to your chin. There should be no gaps through which harmful air can enter,” he added.
Dr Neetu Jain, senior consultant pulmonologist at Delhi’s PSRI Hospital, also stressed the importance of using N95 masks that properly cover our mouth and nose.
“An N95 mask is prescribed for air pollution protection as it fits well on the face and filters even fine airborne particles, providing far better protection. It tightly covers the mouth and nose, which is basically where the air can enter our lungs,” she stated.
“These masks cannot be prescribed for children or those with facial hair,” Dr Jain added.
Meanwhile, in response to the crisis, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal convened an emergency meeting on Saturday and devised a four-step plan, which could include a city-wide lockdown.
Delhi’s schools and government offices will also be closed for a week. The officials will work from home for the next seven days.
Read | Delhi shuts schools, govt offices for a week due to air pollution, CM Kejriwal says no lockdown for now
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