Thursday, 9 November 2017

How to Choose the best Air Purifier

With air pollution touching new highs in Delhi and PM2.5 (Particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in size that can penetrate the lungs and cause damage ) levels almost at hazardous levels and normal surgical masks being useless against pollution;getting an air purifier at your home and office is no more a luxury or a fad .

Indoor pollutants are generally the ones that cause more harm since that is where we spend the chunk of our time. Read more about indoor pollution here.

Air purifiers are devices that clean the indoor air by removing suspended impurities such as dust particles, pollen, smoke and other airborne allergens. They help in providing less contaminated air, though many companies also claim that their purifiers reduce allergic reactions and asthma attacks. Air purifiers cost anywhere between INR 5,000 to INR 95,000.

Common Contaminants in the Indoor air

Pollen - (Average size 5-100 microns) - Having a green cover near your house is great for photography and brochures but God forbid if you are allergic to pollen or have too many indoor plants then you might need to consider an air purifier that reduces the pollen levels in the air .

Dust and dust mites – (Average size 0.5-50 microns) – Every house has dust and indoor dust particularly houses dust mites that are known allergens.

Pet Dander - (Average size 0.5-100 microns) – If you have a pawed friend or a winged companion and frequently suffer from allergies, you might need to consider an air purifier to get rid of pet dander and mites.

Molds - (Average size 2-20 microns) - Molds and fungus usually thrive in damp and dark places.

Smoke and VOC – Even if you are not a smoker, kitchen fumes and chemical odors from floor cleaners, deodorants ,stationary etc. can cause breathlessness and you might need to consider this while buying a purifier.

Bacteria and Virus – (0.35-10 microns) - These are omnipresent.

 Points to Remember when buying an Air Purifier

 Coverage area – You need to consider the size of your room or office to select a purifier just like an air conditioner.While selecting do consider the area of the space that needs to be purified .Most affordable room purifiers cover an area of 200-350 sq feet but if you need a purifier for a larger area then you shall need to choose your air  purifier accordingly .

       Filter Type - It is important to consider the kind of filtration your office or home   will need before   zeroing on one product .

1.Activated carbon Filter- Activated Carbon filters have small absorbent pores that chemically react to pollutants as they pass through the filter. effective at clearing smoke, odors, chemicals and even gases from the air, rarely used as stand-alone filters , mostly used in combination with other filters.

2.HEPA Filters -HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air or high-efficiency particulate arresting) filters work by pulling or pushing the air through a filter screen that catches these contaminants. A HEPA filter can trap 99.97% of all household airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns in size and 95% of minute particles down to 0.1 micron. HEPA air filters are the most recommended and useful for removing dust, pollen, mold and spores, though they are not very effective in removing VOC, smoke, odors and bacteria.

3.Ionizer Filters – Its a device that uses high voltage to ionize or electrically charge air molecules. Once a particle is charged, it will be attracted to anything with the opposite charge. Two metal plates within the purifier are charged (one negative, one positive) to attract these particles. Also, particles in the air will be drawn to each other if they have opposite charges. Once attracted to each other these particles clump together, get heavier and eventually they settle out of the air. They are very quiet compared to most HEPA machines. There are two major subdivisions: the fan less ionizer and fan-based ionizer. Fan less ionizer is noiseless and use little power, but are less efficient at air purification. Fan-based ionizers clean and distribute air much faster. Ozone may be produced in minimal quantities. The Ionizing filter effectively removes dust, pollen smoke and bacteria.

    4. Photo Catalyst Oxidation Filter – It uses short-wave ultraviolet light (UVC),    commonly used for sterilization, to energize the catalyst (usually titanium       dioxide (TiO2) and oxidize bacteria and viruses, effective on VOCs.

       Portability – Room filters can be fixed to the wall or can be portable .Choose as per your requirement.

Clean Air delivery rate ( CADR) – It determines how well the ambient air has been purified, if the purification process is very slow then the purifier is not going to help much . A CADR rate of 300 MCH is considered  good enough .

       Energy usage - While most units do not consume much energy in terms of wattage ,it does not harm to do a comparative check .

    Noise levels  - Some units are prone to make more noise which may be disturbing so this needs to be factored in .Some manufacturers specify and some do not specify the decibel levels.

    Display to show Air Quality index (AQI ) - This warns about when it is time to change the filters .

    Here is a comparison of some of the affordable and effective purifiers in the market :

Sunday, 29 October 2017

In Pursuit of Health and Happiness in DELHI NCR

 Image source

To start with a couplet from the famous poet "Zauq"

“इन दिनों गरचे दक्खन में है बड़ी कद्र ऐ सुख़न

कौन जाए 'ज़ौक' पर दिल्ली की गलियां छोड़कर”

“In dinon garche deccan mein hai badi qadr-e-sukhan

Kaun jaye 'Zauq' par dilli ki galiyan chhodkar ”

(Now a days Deccan is very prosperous, but Zauq who wants to leave the streets of Delhi?)

I too am a proud Delhiite (despite being a female living in the so called Rape capital of India and also one of the most polluted cities of the world) and dare I say a responsible one who wishes to see her city feature among the smart and livable world class cities of the world.

What do we mean by a smart city? 

A city equipped with the basic infrastructure to give a decent quality of life to its residents, a clean and sustainable environment through application of some smart solutions.

What encompasses basic infrastructure? 

It means the basic framework for smooth functioning of a city and better quality of life of the citizens; like

 1. Assured water and electricity supply,
 2. Sanitation and solid waste management,
 3. Efficient urban mobility and public transport
 4. Strong  IT  connectivity, e-governance and citizen participation
 5. Safety and security of citizens
 6. Health and Education

What are smart solutions? 

A smart solution is one that should enable cities to use technology, information and data to improve infrastructure and services and provide better quality of life to its citizens.

Health and Education 

With privatization of education, Delhi has world class school colleges and curriculum available to our students and Primary education is still much better than other states .We also have one of the best medical colleges and hospitals that are making path breaking advances in medical procedures and giving boom to medical tourism in India.

In fact the NCR Delhi has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of infrastructure and development in the last decade unfortunately this also means that the city is crumbling under its own weight as increased migration has put an additional load on the city’s limited resources thus giving rise to increased crime, pollution, traffic jams and congestion.

In 2014 World Health Organization released a list of world’s 20 most polluted cities, unfortunately as many as 13 Indian cities figured in the list with Delhi figuring among the top three most polluted cities of the world.
source -wikipedia

How can we forget the infamous Great Smog of Delhi in November 2016, when the PM (Particulate matter) crossed the 900 mark in some areas of the city, recording almost 15 times the safety limit and several people complained of burning of eyes, cough and breathlessness. It was attributed to colder weather, moisture in the atmosphere and stagnant winds trapping the suspended smoke, burning of garbage and fallen leaves and vehicular emissions and also the bursting of firecrackers during Diwali and burning of crop stubble after harvest in North India .

In fact the PM Level (Particulate matter) in Delhi becomes 10 times higher than the limit prescribed by W.H.O. during every winter which is a matter of grave concern .

Delhi has close to 17 Million registered vehicles & close to 12Million in NCR (highest in the world among all cities).Imagine the amount of congestion and pollution we must be facing every day on the roads.

Luckily the November 2016 smog was a wake up call and some measures have been taken by the local government to reduce the PM levels.

1. Bharat stage emission standards (BSES) are emission standards instituted by the Government of India, to regulate the output of air pollutants motor vehicles. Bharat Stage IV emission norms have been in place since April 2010 and it has been enforced for entire country since April 2017.

It has been proposed to skip BSES V and directly enforce BSES VI by 2020 in accordance with Euro 6 Emission norms to improve the air quality further.

I say let us take  a cue from London (one of the worst polluted city in Europe) –starting from October 23, 2017, the city of London has enforced a new law that  imposes a fine of £10 ($16.39 CAD), called a “T-charge” (short for Toxicity Charge) for driving cars that do not meet the Euro 4 emissions standard.

We need immediate action against visibly polluting vehicles, carrying out checks of overloaded vehicles, ensuring  “No Parking ”in non-designated areas, Intelligent traffic management system ,decongestion of pathways, promoting battery-operated vehicles and considering introduction of flexi/staggered timings to minimize peak movement of vehicles also car- pooling to be encouraged .

2. Closing of the Badarpur Thermal Power Station – The Thermal power plant is the most polluting power plant of India and was temporarily closed during the great Smog of 2016; it has been proposed to close it down permanently by July 2018 .

3. Green buffers along traffic corridors – There is a policy in place for green belts along traffic corridors and I feel corporates can chip in (like Vodafone’s initiative of providing air filters at bus stop so that passengers while waiting can inhale less toxic air )to help in sponsoring the green drive .

4. Alternative and Better transport systems and green fuel  - C.N.G. has been promoted and adopted in a big way which has helped reduce pollution .Metro trains operational since 2002 have provided Delhiites world class transport and a safer and cleaner alternative to the D.T.C. and the notorious Blueline bus services .The network is gradually spreading to connect the whole NCR region and reduce the transit time significantly .I specially love the way travelling to the airport has become so much hassle-free and cheaper too .My journey time has been cut down from a long two hours to half  without any traffic jams .We need more such green public transports and connectivity .

Water and Power 

While smart meters have been put into place to monitor consumption, and reduce thefts of water and electricity, we also need better grid management to help cut down energy losses during transmission since energy saved is equivalent to energy generated.

But the need of the hour is to accelerate the adoption of greener and sustainable energy sources.
Delhi Government’s  latest solar policy, aims to make Delhi a "solar city" through generation of 1,000 megawatt of power by 2020 and taking it further to 2,000 MW by 2025.

Solar Energy is a cheaper and safer alternative to conventional sources of energy thanks to lower taxes.The proposed exemption from wheeling, banking and transmission charges for solar energy within Delhi would make it even more affordable for the common man.

The Railways’ has taken a step forward in realizing this dream,they have installed newly acquired solar power plants on the roof tops of Hazrat  Nizamuddin, New Delhi, Anand Vihar and Delhi railway stations that will generate 76.5 lakh units of solar power cumulatively per year and shall meet about 30 per cent of the energy requirement of these stations .

I quote Christian Redl of Agora Energywende, a German energy think tank “What has happened in India in solar sphere in five years took 15 years in Germany!” 

So let us pat ourselves on the back for coming so far though we still have a long way to go .We still need smart solutions to our waste management problem with our landfills filling up fast. Another area of concern is citizen’s grievance redressal, transparency in governance and safety of and security of citizens specially women and elderly.

Despite the short comings, Delhi still remains the place where Tombs of Emperors rub shoulders with a Chaat walla .A city steeped in history. It is the land that gave us great poets like Ghalib, Nizamuddin, Khusro, Zafar, Zauq, Bedil Dehalvi and Khuswant Singh .It is a thriving ,teeming city of aspirations and opportunities and a promise for a better future .

On that optimistic note, I wish all my fellow Delhiites a Super life and a hope filled  future .

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Lotus Herbals Rosetone Rose Petals Facial Skin Toner


Price - Rs 265 for 100 ml

Presentation - It comes packed in a clear plastic bottle with spray nozzle and a plastic cover .

What I liked  about Lotus Herbals Rosetone Rose Petals Facial Skin Toner

1. Affordable
2. Alcohol free
3.Transparent  bottle makes it easy to check how much product is left
4. Pleasant mild fragrance of roses that lingers
5. Does not dry out the skin after use
6.Can be used as a facial mist to refresh the skin on hot days
7. Did not give any burning sensation after applying.
8. My skin started looking clearer after one week of using it after my face wash

What I did not like about Lotus Herbals Rosetone Rose Petals Facial Skin Toner

1. It removes dirt and oil but not very effectively nor works on removing traces of makeup after a face wash , the face does not feel squeaky clean maybe because it is low on astringents .

2. I wish the spray mist was finer so that you could leave it on for refreshing the face ,but actually when you spray , the product kind of drips off the face making it mandatory to wipe it off .

3. I found it less effective in shrinking pore size .

FINAL VERDICT - I rate it a 3 /5 . Nice fragrance , alcohol free are what worked for me but I won't be buying it again because it was not very effective in cleansing my oily skin or removing the last traces of makeup .

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Curtain Raiser Event of Indo-German Young Leaders Forum 2017

With 14000 Indian students pursuing studies in Germany and about 1000 German students enrolled in Indian Universities ,a need for better dialogue and exchange between the two countries to strengthen these educational and economic ties was felt.The seed for the inception of a forum germinated thus .

After a lot of efforts and brainstorming ,on 12th December 2016 The  Indo-German Young Leaders Forum held its inauguration event at the Embassy of India in Berlin.

The Indo-German Young Leaders Forum is a private, politically independent, non-profit, non-partisan initiative driven by a diverse committee of volunteers.The Indo-German Young Leaders Forum is an initiative to foster existing and new Indo-German relations in the field of business, politics, science, media and culture. I.G.Y.L.F. is a bridge, which reduces the cultural, economical, social and political distance between New Delhi and Berlin and is officially endorsed by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On the 30th May 2017,at the fourth Inter-Governmental Consultations  between India and Germany Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi and the German Federal Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel called for a process by which concrete synergies in areas such as capacity building, vocational training, connectivity and renewable energy would be set up.

It makes sense, since Germany is India's largest trading partner in Europe and 7th largest source of FDI .Germany with its high quality products, high engineering qualities and training systems can help propel Indian initiatives like Digital India, Startup India and Make in India that also rely heavily on technology and innovation.

Within a few weeks of that,the then Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman and Germany's Economic Affairs Minister Ms. Brigitte Zypries declared that the two countries had agreed to establish exchange programmes for Indian and German Startups.

I attended the curtain raiser to the actual event to be held later next year.The curtain raiser event was held on the 27th of September  at the German Embassy in New Delhi.
Mr. Volmar Noeske - the MC for the evening 

His Excellency Dr. Martin Ney 

Mr. Volkmar Noeske was the charming and suave MC for the evening . He started with a brief introduction of the IGYLF and then invited the German Ambassador to India, His Excellency Dr.Martin Ney ( also the co-founder jointly with leading Indian industrialists of the “Alliance of dual Vocational Education and Training”) for the inaugural address which was received with much positivity and excitement .

It was then followed by a brief history of the conception of the forum by Mr. Vishnu Ramdeo ,the Co-Chairman of the Executive Committee of the IGYLF .
Co- Chairman of the Executive Committee,IGYLF - Mr. Vishnu Ramdeo

Mr. Ramdeo is the founder and Director of the Ramdeo College of Management and Science. He is further the founder of the Cultural Bridge Programme. He is also the recipient of the prestigious German Chancellor’s Fellowship, and has worked extensively on improving higher educational systems by fostering collaborations between institutions of India and the EU.

After that Dr. Florian Ramel ,Member of the Executive Committee ,took to the podium and gave an informal introduction the forum, its work and expressed sincere hopes of a positive outcome from this association in the coming years .Dr. Florian has served as a commissioned officer in the German Army for ten years and now works for the management of a small holding company in Berlin .

It was then followed by a scintillating and stimulating panel discussion on the " Vocational Education Training (VET) and Skills development landscape in India ".

Among the esteemed panel of judges were - Mr. Johannes Strittmatter (Project Director) Indo-German Program for Vocational Education and Training), GIZ, Mr.  Manish Joshi (Deputy Head ) India International Skill Centres, NSDC, Mr. Maheshwar Peri (Publisher) Careers360 magazine and Mr V. Suresh (Head of  Skill Development and CSR ), Tata Motors.

The panel discussion in progress

The discussion brought out the strong need for Work based learning and apprenticeship and standardization of the training in India as per International standards .This is an  area where we can certainly learn a lot from German VET where Private sector companies have their own educational institutions that provide standardized education ,training and also encourage the students to innovate resulting in a high percentage of employment of these highly skilled students .

The evening ended with networking over dinner and drinks and high hopes for Indo-German future collaborations .

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Breathe Clean, Breathe Easy – A short guide to combat Indoor pollution

As a doctor, I come across cases of respiratory allergies on a daily basis and many a times despite regular medicines and a healthy diet, the patient keeps coming back to me with the same symptoms – sneezing, irritation in the nose, cough, redness of the eyes, itching of the skin, hives, wheezing, breathlessness etc.   

In such cases, there is generally a maintaining cause, which means something around the patient is not allowing him or her to recover and is causing him or her  to develop an allergic reaction recurrently .More often than not, that something turns out to be a common and seemingly innocuous part of the household itself .

VOCs are the most common cause of indoor pollution and respiratory problems because their concentrations are usually higher indoors (actually up to 5 times more!) than outdoors.

What are V.O.C.s?

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and Chemicals – These compounds are volatile (easily disperse into the surrounding atmosphere) at 25 degrees Celsius and thus can pollute the air that is inhaled by us.

Common sources of Indoor Pollution are:

 Manmade VOCs - A major source of manmade VOCs are the paints, industrial solvents (thinners) and protective coatings used indoors. Refrigerants and fossil fuels (LPG etc.) are other common culprits that contribute to VOCs in our homes.

Some common items that can emit VOCs in our homes or offices  are – Furniture paint, Paints, adhesives, glues ,solvents ,spray cans, correction fluids ,copier machine toners, nail paints ,moth balls, air fresheners, carpets, draperies,  deodorizers ,dry cleaned clothing (perchloroethylene  vapors from newly dry-cleaned  materials. have been shown to cause cancer in animals),fabric conditioners,hair sprays,aerosols disinfectants,pesticides, tobacco smoke ,cleaning products ,felt tip markers etc.
Indoor Pollutants

Gas from human intestines and exhaled air from the lungs also contributes to VOCs though   because of low amounts it is not a serious threat.

Phytogenic VOC’s – It is a common misconception that all plants are good for improving the air quality. But in fact VOCs are also emitted by most plants and these are called Green leaf volatiles. Black gums, Poplar and Cedar trees being very high on VOC’s emissions. The warmer and humid the climate will be, the larger will be the concentrations of emitted VOCs.

Smog - A mixture of Smoke ( from coal burning and forest fires etc.) and Fog is loosely called as Smog, but a greater threat to the environment and human beings is Phytochemical smog derived from vehicular emissions and industrial fumes or even stubble burning after wheat harvest especially  in North India .These gases  then react in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight to form secondary pollutants .The secondary and primary pollutants thus combined are known as a phytochemical Smog and pose a greater risk to health .

Dust mites and fecal matter – Many household mites that dwell in food and bedding release VOCs into the indoor air.

Pets – While our pawed and winged friends are our beloved companions and great stress busters, they may also be contributing to the indoor allergens in the form of odors, dander, droppings and feces. According to a study, feeding American pets has the same impact on the climate as that of driving 13.6 million cars! Pets can also carry pollen, molds and other allergens from the outside to the insides of our homes and deposit it on bedding and other surfaces.
Kitchen fumes source

Kitchen Odors – Barbeques and smoke from burnt food besides the detergents and cleaners can not only create unpleasant odors but also contribute to VOCs in your kitchen.
Household molds

Molds – VOCs from Molds or fungus is called microbial VOCs. These MVOCs are responsible for the characteristic "musty, earthy, and moldy” smell in dank homes or during rainy seasons .Not only is this very unpleasant odor but it can be a great source of discomfort too for those susceptible to them.

What does Exposure to VOCs do?

Most common symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction like itching or rashes, difficulty in breathing, nausea, vomiting, nose bleeding, fatigue, malaise, dizziness etc. Long term VOCs exposure has been linked to neuromuscular diseases and even cancer.

     How to Combat Indoor Pollutants?

     It is impossible to avoid indoor pollutants completely but the exposure can be significantly cut down to healthy levels by taking some precautions and finding safer substitutes to the regular products used in our homes and work places.


    Furniture -If possible get furniture and cabinets made from solid wood and not pressed wood or engineered wood, which is bound together with formaldehyde. Engineered wood does come cheaper but in the long term may prove costly because of the bad effect on health and also not as durable as solid wood.
   Avoid air fresheners and deodorizers, aerosols and other scented products that add additional V.O.C.s to the air.

   Bedrooms and wardrobes - Air out bedding regularly and even freshly dry-cleaned clothes before wearing. This is because freshly dry cleaned clothes emit V.O.C.Place V.O.C. processes such a photocopy machines, printers and photographic development in rooms with special ventilation systems so that  exhaust products are expelled  out of the building.


     Prevent moisture build-up inside that could result in the growth of V.O.C.-producing molds. Keep humidity levels below 60% by airing out regularly or using a dehumidifier and make sure that all water seepage is taken care of rapidly.
     Gardens - Keep very few indoor plants .Scientific studies have found some plants that are quite useful in removing V.O.C.s like the Japanese royal ferns, Spider plants, Boston ferns, Purple waffle plants, English Ivy, Areca Palms, Golden Pothos, Aloe Vera, Snake plants and Peace lilies etc. These plants are a good choice be used for the interiors.

Peace Lilies - Source

    Minimize the use of pesticides indoors. Instead, use other means like a concentrate of boiled Neem leaves for pest control .Throw away partially filled containers of old or unneeded chemicals safely. Because gases can leak even from closed containers, this single step could help lower concentrations of harmful organic chemicals in your home .

    Pets - Bathe and brush your pets regularly to take care of dander and keeping them away from bedding and furniture can significantly. The pets should not be fed a very high meat diet .Preferably have their dwelling on the outside of the house or have a good ventilation system in place.

   Ventilation - Air out newly manufactured homes and buildings or newly renovated or furnished areas with fresh, clean outdoor air for a minimum of one week or until the new odors dissipate .Try and keep the house well ventilated.

Air Purifying paint

  While selecting paints, select paints and protective coatings with aqueous base or formaldehyde free products, look for labels that describe a "low-emitting formula" and state that the product has a low V.O.C. content (look for a Green Assure Seal on the paint). Even when using a low-V.O.C. product, be sure to have adequate ventilation. In fact due to rising consumer awareness and as a result of latest innovations, paints that contain activated charcoal technology are now available in the market .These healthier paints help in absorbing formaldehyde and unwanted odors to give a fresher and healthier home.The Royal Atmos from Asian Paints is one such brand which promises to reduce indoor pollutants, curb select bad odors in the house and also releases a soft fragrance (obviously without V.O.C.s and also eliminating the need for a separate air freshener for your home). This could well be a superior alternative when selecting the paint for your home or office.

    I hope you find this bit of information useful ,till then Breathe Clean - Breathe Easy  !