Pollution woes: Air masks flying off shelves in Delhi-NCR

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has termed Delhi as a "gas chamber" and sought Centre's intervention in mitigating the alarming levels of smog

By: PTI | Updated: November 6, 2016 12:06 pm
Gurgaon: School girls wearing anti-air pollution masks as protective gear after pollution reached hazardous levels in Gurgaon on Saturday. PTI Photo(PTI11_5_2016_000175A) School girls wearing anti-air pollution masks as protective gear after pollution reached hazardous levels in Gurgaon on Saturday. PTI Photo

With Delhi witnessing its worst spell of smog in 17 years, sale of air masks has seen an upsurge in the past week with stores across the national capital and neighbouring regions running out of stock. While Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has termed Delhi as a “gas chamber” and sought Centre’s intervention in mitigating the alarming levels of smog, Delhiites are running to medical stores and hospitals looking for masks. Some schools in Delhi-NCR have also issued advisories for parents to ensure that their children use masks.

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Jai Dhar Gupta, owner of Nirvana Being that sells Vogmasks in India, says, “The demand is so much that we finish our stocks by mid-day and have to replenish our stocks. We generally stock masks around Diwali every year but this season the demand has multiplied like 10 times.”

The masks that are available at prices ranging from Rs 90 to up to Rs 2200 are available in various designs and patterns. The starting range of masks includes the ones that are meant for one-time use while the high-priced ones are fitted with air filters and claim to be to stop over 99 per cent of the pollutants as well as bacteria and viruses from entering the user’s nostrils.

The masks also come in five sizes – from XS to XL – depending on the height and weight of the user.

Sudesh Mehta of Srishti Medicos in Gurgaon says, “Various companies in the city have also been placing bulk orders for distribution of masks to their employees and hence the product has been running out of stock for individual buyers for over the counter sale.”

Delhi-NCR residents are also trying to place online orders for the masks through e-commerce websites but the delivery time is too long.

“Since I could not procure a mask from a store I have placed an order online but the website says it will be delivered in a week’s time. May be it will not be worth getting it then as the air quality may improve by then,” says Kaumudi Das, a software engineer staying in Rohini.

While air-purifiers are an expensive way to deal with pollution woes, a survey by Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) has revealed that there has been a jump of nearly 50 per cent in the demand for air purifiers in Delhi-NCR in last four days.

“The national capital has been facing problem of haze for quite some time, pollution, allergens and firecrackers together have further caused significant deterioration in Delhi’s air quality,” says D S Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM.

“Demand for air purifier installations is likely to grow exponentially as they become popular and would be installed in shopping complexes, malls, offices and homes and almost everywhere, more so as health problems like asthma and other lung related diseases are also growing rapidly,” he adds.

The national capital is facing the worst smog in 17 years, according to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) which has asked the Delhi government to issue health alerts and convey that children should stay indoors as there is a state of health emergency due to peaking air pollution.

While over 1800 MCD schools were closed yesterday in wake of the pollution, few schools have declared holiday till Monday and others suspended their morning assemblies or delayed the school timings.

The Delhi government has also flagged crop burning in Punjab and Haryana as one of the major factors contributing to the rising air pollution in the national capital and said it peaks during the night hours due to low wind speed in comparison to day time.