A Breath of Fresh Air

A Breath of Fresh Air

Make your home an allergy-free zone


Garima Gupta


Exposure to dust, pollen and other irritants can aggravate breathing conditions. According to the World Health Organization, India houses 10 out of 20 of the world’s most polluted cities. Gwalior, Allahabad and Patna are amongst the top 10, with Delhi and Ludhiana at the 11th and 12th spots. Pollution sources include industrial and vehicular exhaust, burning of bio mass, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide effluents, dust and pollen. Then, there are indoor air-suspended allergens and pollutants, such as kitchen exhaust, cigarette smoke and volatile organic chemicals (VOC), including formaldehyde or acetaldehyde, that occur as a result of furniture varnish or room fresheners.


Dr Girish Raheja, senior consultant and clinical coordinator, ENT, at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, says, “Badly ventilated houses, the burning of mosquito repellents inside rooms, kitchen fumes, dust mites and pollen from indoor plants can increase allergy incidences.” Pregnant women, young children, the elderly and asthma patients are particularly vulnerable to these irritants. Some easy solutions include airing out rooms, regular dusting and vacuuming and moving pollen-releasing plants outside.


You may also consider an air purifier. For chronic sufferers, it may help you sleep better and control the frequency of allergy attacks, hospital visits and dependence on medicines. This handy guide will help you choose the one best suited to your needs.


How it works
An air purifier forces air through a fine mesh-like a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) or carbon filter, ionizer or electrostatic precipitator-to trap dust, pollen, fumes, odours, pet dander, cigarette smoke and suspended particles. They are also ranked for clean-air delivery rate (CADR), an indication of the device’s cleaning speed. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, USA, considers a CADR below 100 to be poor and above 350, excellent. Consider a model with a built-in humidifier if you suffer from asthma-induced allergies. However, Raheja adds, an air purifier has no effect on the body’s own immunological response once a person is outdoors.


Keep in mind
Most air purifiers come for a specific room size. To maximize effectiveness, choose one designed for an area larger than yours. Since you’ll be running these for a couple of hours or more, look for models that are Energy Star certified to cut down on electricity usage. Carbon and HEPA filters need to be replaced periodically, usually within three months for the former and eight for latter, so factor that into your cost. You can also look for models with washable filters. A unit with a programmable display and timer gives real-time data on pollutants and helps control it for efficient air-cleaning.


Use it right
Place the purifier in the room you spend the most time in. They can get pretty noisy at high speeds-you could buy a larger capacity one and run it at lower speeds for noise reduction. A clogged filter can reduce cleaning capacity, so clean and replace filters as recommended. A child lock is useful to prevent accidents.


Watch out for
Some models with ionizers and electrostatic precipitators generate small amounts of ozone, which is a lung irritant.