There is variation, colour, and uniqueness in death that indoor pollution brings with it. Things that you have fallen in love with and think you cannot live without can sometimes enter your life to take it… and this isn’t a hyperbole. Look at perfumes, hair sprays, furniture polish, glues, air fresheners, moth repellents, wood preservatives synthetic materials for building and furnishing and you’ll know what I am talking about. Then there is use of chemical products, pesticides, and household care products that help you transform your home into a swachch home but certainly not a safe home. These are all modern day symbols of the immortal art of Da Vinci as our print and AV ads would want us to believe but they us closer to death in more than one way.

You taste, touch, or inhale and you’ll know what I mean when I call them the Da Vinci of death. Even the smoke from biofuels emits the four dreaded pollutants like the particulates, carbon monoxide, polycyclic organic matter, and formaldehyde… and these aren’t innocent spirals of smoke lending that unique flavour to chapatis and dal. With architects now recommending relatively airtight houses even in India (as we have begun to afford air conditioners and radiators etc) the pollutant level is bound to increase because of the resultant reduction in ventilation.

As I sat mulling over these grim facts, my thoughts decided to play a little game on me and asked, ‘Any favourite pollutions that you think should be flogged?’

Without wasting a moment, I said, ‘Noise pollution. Political pollution. Indoor pollution.’

‘Aha!’ said my thoughts, ‘so you don’t think outdoor pollution is as bad as the three you’ve mentioned.’

‘I didn’t say that, did I?’ I said, ‘but I must admit that indoor pollution can induce infections, initiate lung cancer, and even pulmonary diseases like asthma.’ My thoughts then asked me to choose five Bollywood icons and guess how they would react to this simple question: ‘Do you fear indoor pollution?’

So there I was sitting on an inexpensive chair in my sparsely decorated home and zipping over to people like Alia Bhatt, Amjad Khan or Gabbar, Sunny Leone, SRK, and Amitabh Bachchan to hear the famous actors say something in their own way.

Well, Alia Bhatt asked me to repeat the question and then clapped her hands and said, ‘I don’t fear anything but do send me an invite for the event.’

‘Event?’ I asked, confused.

‘Well yes, you did mention pollution and indoor… remember?’ said Alia, cocking her head, smiling, and adding, ‘I think you’re talking about an indoor event and if it is like that AIB Roast, it is going to be fun. Such events must be purified by smiles.’ Well, so that was a rather short interview with Alia and she wasn’t really wrong… we need to begin with a confident smile before we take any action against indoor pollution. Right?

Gabbar was in his elements when I met and simply walked up and down the room before asking, ‘Kitne pollution hain?’

I said, ‘Sardar, ek… sirf indoor pollution hai.’

Toh fir darr kaisa?’ Gabbar roared, ‘mera naam le lo aur phir sau saal tak pollushun kuch nahin karega!’

I’m sure what Gabbar was really trying to tell me was that no pollutant ever exists without another killer instinct being born. Just search for this solution and indoor pollution will be easy to counter.

I found myself with Sunny Leone and she just fluttered her eye-lids and coo-ed, ‘Well, lots of women call me an indoor pollution, and I know I’m deadly. Fear means nothing if you have your own action plan.’

That’s it… I murmured and thanked her because she had clearly told me that only a well-defined and technologically sound action plan would help.

So I then hopped over to SRK who just ‘Humph-ed and Hurr-ed! me aside and then taking off his shirt to show me some flabby abs, said, ‘I don’t fear no one. Indoor or outdoor. Poll or no poll. I shun them all. I have to rush to make another flop… bye!’ Well, I interpret this scurried answer as a warning that indoor pollution isn’t something that must be allowed to stay on and cause all those headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion bouts, nausea, and fatigue… just act fast! Speed is of essence. Obviously then, indoor pollution must not be your guest for life… it could be devastating indeed!

When I asked Sr Bachchan the same question, he replied, ‘Babu ji would have quoted these lines from one of his poems.’ And then he recited two lines before leaving me with my thoughts.

Harivanshrai Bachchan's lines

Harivanshrai Bachchan’s lines

And Amitabh too had hit the nail in his own special way… and the lines did seem to talk so favourably about the unexpected losses on the other side, that is, if you crossed over to times of severe indoor pollution. The beauty of a great poem is that it interprets every situation the best way.

So yes, indoor pollution is indeed something that even the Bollywood icons acknowledged in a different manner… and we ordinary mortals must not really overlook the hazards that it poses.

We need to be aware of the issues surrounding indoor pollution… and even other forms of pollution, of course. I mention the indoor form because most of us tend to spend a lot of time indoors and so cannot afford to let it destroy our lives. And, by the way, did I mention that pollutants exist in micron sizes so you cannot actually pick them up and put them in a recycle bag. These micro-sized monsters need specialised busters… though you can reduce your exposure to pollutants if you know what to do in certain cases.

It will be helpful to know that broken CFLs releases mercury, a neurotoxin in the air… so the best action is to simply open the windows and let fresh air come and clear the environment.

Your gadgets have plastic parts… and plastics made with polyvinyl chloride emit phthalates that may lead to hormonal abnormalities and reproductive problems. Plastics also release polybrominated diphenyl ethers which are flame-retardant chemicals known to cause neurobehavioral changes. So what does one do? Simple… encourage adequate ventilation until the chemical odour goes away. Be regular in vacuuming around computers, printers, and televisions.

Even glues and adhesives aren’t as virtuous as they seem with their relationship with acetone or methyl ethyl ketone that irritates eyes and affects the nervous system. Rubber cement has n-hexane, a neurotoxin and adhesives are known to have toxic formaldehyde. The secret of escaping these hazards is to encourage a fair degree of ventilation in the house.

Kitchen with their platoon of stoves, heaters, and fireplaces can have an abundance of carbon monoxide that can cause headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and even death in the absence of proper ventilation. Nitrogen dioxides and other particulates, doctors say, can cause respiratory disorders and inflammation of the eyes, nose, and throat.

Isn’t all this serious enough? Isn’t it time to realise that pollution is much more than just exhaust fumes on busy traffic congested roads… it is right there inside a home that you have been thinking of as a safe haven all this while. Pollution isn’t just in the Ganges or existing only as garbage piles on the slopes of pristine mountains… it is right under your nose inside your house. Yes, pollution is surely transforming this world into a global garbage can but if you do not allow your awareness instincts to act right, your home will be a stinking source of illness and disease even before any other form of pollution overwhelms existence. Therefore, it is time to sit up and say: indoor pollution is a reality and I want our think-tanks to serve us a solution. Prevent your home from becoming a Da Vinci of death!

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Yes, indoor pollution is like a terrorist inside a home!

Yes, indoor pollution is like a terrorist inside a home!

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Article published in Business Insider, dated 03 March 2015:

2015_03_03_Business Insider_The Da Vinci of Death

2015_03_03_Business Insider_The Da Vinci of Death

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Arvind Passey
03 March 2015