Smog is a combination of two words i.e. smoke and fog, which is also known as the mixture of smoke or soot particles in fog or mist or a mixture of various gases with dust and water vapour that form fog. It is a yellow or black fog composed of a mixture of air pollutants, mainly nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and some other organic compounds that combine with sunlight to form ozone.
In some cities especially industrial cities such as Delhi, smog is increasing rapidly and in the last 17 years has created a dangerous situation which is known as a health emergency.
Smog impairs visibility, and people are advised to stay indoors as it is highly toxic to humans and can cause serious illness, even death. Today, in this article, we will tell you how it is formed and what risk it poses to your health and necessary precautions.
What is Smog and why it appears in winter?
The term was first used in London in the early 1900s, suggesting that smog was a combination of smoke and fog that enveloped the entire city. According to various sources, this term was first given by Dr. Henry Antoine des Voeux in his paper Fog and Smoke during the meeting of the Public Health Congress in July 1905. He told that smog is a mixture of smoke and slurry dioxide.
Smog is purely caused by air pollution. When fuel burns, atmospheric pollutants or gases react with sunlight and the heat in the atmosphere, forming smog. Besides, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are also formed by complex chemical reactions between sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, also known as precursors.
During winter, dust particles and pollutants in the air become relatively stable, due to stagnant winds. Consequently, these pollutants get locked in the air and affect weather conditions, resulting in smog. This obstructs visibility and also disturbs the environment.
Also read: Why You Must Have Jaggery In Winter?
How injurious is smog for our health?
Smog is not only harmful to humans but it is harmful to plants, animals and the whole ecosystem. When exposed to it, it can cause the following health issues:
- People suffering from Asthma are the most vulnerable as smog triggers asthma attacks.
- Many people are dye due to bronchial disease. Smog aggravates bronchial diseases.
- The production of the natural element vitamin-D is obstructed due to reduced solar insolation. The deficiency of Vitamin-D causes rickets among people.
- Exposure to smog also causes heartburn, cough, cancer or infection, throat cancer and pneumonia.
- Besides, it causes pain in breathing, burning in the eyes and an increase in many diseases like lung cancer.
- People also feel tired, have headaches, low energy and nervousness.
- Apart from humans, smog also causes heavy damage to crops and forests. Vegetables and crops mainly soybeans, wheat, tomatoes, groundnuts and cotton get infected when exposed to smog.
- It also affects various animal species and green life.
During the smoggy days make take special care of children, old people and people suffering from asthma, as they are the most vulnerable among all.
Children’s lungs are not developed fully and they spend a lot of time playing outside during the winter, so they are at risk of being affected by more pollution while breathing.
People who are suffering from asthma problems like lung disease etc., who have heart problems, Diabetic patients are also more vulnerable.
Senior citizens also remain at higher risk not only because of their age but also because of their weakened hearts, lungs and immune systems.
Moreover, people affected by allergies, pregnant women and people who smoke also need to be careful.
What should be our Plan of Action?
- During smoggy days, we should regularly keep monitoring the Air Quality Index (AQI), which is usually referred to as the Pollutant Standards Index. Be aware of ozone levels in the area, and monitor ozone levels wherever you are travelling. To check the level of ozone in a particular area; National, state and local agencies have air tools that monitor ozone levels and report the negative health effects of smog. Do, not step outside if the Index is showing very poor air quality.
- To avoid the effect of smog, you should use an N95 mask or P100 respirator.
- The workout should not be done in the condition of smog. During this time you should avoid any industrious work in which you need to breathe fast.
- Do not sit near the gas stove and candle, you should not sit near the gas stove, incense stick and candle in the house. A vacuum cleaner should also be avoided.
- Avoid using AC or heater. You should run AC only if it has filters, or your AC should be such that it does not draw air from outside.
- Sleep in a room that has fewer doors and windows. Try to keep the windows and gates closed to avoid the entry of smog inside the house.
- During winter, people drink less water. This can prove to be dangerous. Drink about 4 litres of water a day. Do not wait to feel thirsty. Drink water even when you leave the house. Due to this the supply of oxygen in the body will be maintained properly and even if the toxic gases present in the environment reach the blood, then it will cause less harm.
- The hair inside the nose prevents the large dust particles present in the air from entering the body. Do not trim your hair completely.
- After returning from outside, rinse the mouth, eyes and nose with lukewarm water. If possible, take steam.
- Asthma and heart patients take their medicines on time and regularly. They must carry medicine or inhaler with them when stepping outside.