Environment

How toxic is your city?: a look at why air monitoring devices are the rage in India

As smog season begins and firecrackers add to the haze, there is a spurt in the demand for air monitoring devices across the country

It was in early 2017 when Soundhariya Viswanathan started facing frequent respiratory allergies and chest infections. A battery of tests confirmed what the Bengaluru-based media professional had suspected. Her allergies were caused by pollution. “Air pollution levels in the city spiked during Diwali, 2016, and I started falling sick frequently, for no particular reason. Even my children and elderly in-laws were prone to dust allergies,” says the 32-year-old, who went by online reviews and invested in an air purifier and portable humidifier for her family of six. They cost her a little under ₹15,000 and came with smart remote controls and an app. “It was a valuable investment and our pollution-related allergies have reduced drastically in the last few months,” she adds, explaining how with their automatic cleaning capacity, there is zero maintenance cost and they need to be replaced only once every three or four years.

- Vikram Baidyanath
CEO of Delhi-based Baidyanath Group

"I’ve been wearing a mask every day for the last two years. I wear it everywhere: to office, social gatherings and even in the car. Even though the AC is switched on, pollution levels are extremely high inside your car,” says the CEO of Delhi-based Baidyanath Group, who swears by Vogmask and has also used the Grin Health Anti-Pollution Mask (₹690 at amazon.in).

Meanwhile, Kolkata-based automobile emission technologist, SM Ghosh also installed a purifier for ₹14,000 six months ago and later added a pollution detector for ₹6,000 to his shopping cart. He says monitoring devices are effective, and observes that a large section of the population is still unaware of their benefits. “Although keen, people are still apprehensive of their performance. One might invest in a mask perhaps, but an air purifier is still uncommon in most middle-class households. For instance, indoor pollution levels increase even with cooking gas, but how many people fit an exhaust fan or chimney?” asks Ghosh.

Monitor your air

It was in 2016 when pollution levels across the country reached hazardous levels that people sat up and took notice of the deteriorating air quality indoors (which can be five-10 times worse than outdoor air). Since then, there has been an uptick in the demand for air monitoring devices and purifiers. “We saw a sudden surge in demand during the smog situation in New Delhi post Diwali. Winter conditions further deteriorated the air quality and this acted as a catalyst to push sales,” says Sudhir Pillai, general manager of home and building technology provider, Honeywell India, who now sees a steady demand for such equipment from tier-II cities as well.

Deepak Shetty, a consultant at Delhi-based Oriental Group, which markets over 80 monitoring devices and purifier brands, says air quality monitors by brands like Laser Egg made their way into the Indian market in 2016. “We have seen 100-200% growth in the sales of monitors every year, with North India accounting for almost 85-90% of the sales. Maximum demand comes from the Delhi/NCR(Gurgaon-Faridabad-Noida) belt, and other cities include Chandigarh, Mumbai, Lucknow and Hyderabad,” says Shetty, adding how a number of home-grown brands like Air- Veda and Vayu-Care are also competing in the space.

 

Last year, Honeywell India witnessed a 60% increase in the sale of purifier and monitoring devices, says Pillai. And with the correlation between poor air quality and employee productivity, the demand for air purification technology in commercial buildings and office spaces is also picking up. “There are many low-cost options available today,” says Dr Sumit Sharma, Associate Director of the Earth Science and Climate Change Division at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), adding, “but there is a need for calibrating these sensors to get accurate data. These devices have not only opened up opportunities for people to track their daily exposure levels and accordingly take precaution, but have also put pressure for real action in their cities.”

Zeroing-in

Troubled by high pollution levels across the country, Ronak Sutaria, Founder of UrbanSciences, a Mumbai-based independent technology research group, launched low-cost Atmos monitors in 2017. Over 120 devices were set-up across 20 cities. “They measure real-time air quality data, in addition to temperature and humidity in the air around you,” he says. Mumbai tends to have much cleaner air as compared to North Indian cities, but there are certain pockets which get very poor air during winter, explains Sutaria, adding how additional research is needed to zero-in on these areas.

With India home to 14 of the top 20 cities in the world with the worst air quality, experts are also keeping track of advancements globally, and the effectiveness and standardisation of these devices. But will spending approximately ₹20,000 on such monitors be feasible for a large section of our population? “The government is actively investing in low-cost sensor based technology and while this has potential, it will have to be guided and supported by technical and scientific inputs, standardisation and assessment,” concludes Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director - Research and Advocacy at New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Get Pongal-ready

If you’re worried your morning run might be doing you more harm and good thanks to rising air pollution levels, French company R-Pur has just the solution for you. An air mask that filters toxic particles, viruses, bacteria and other fine particles, the R-Pur Nano was launched at the ongoing Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019 at Las Vegas earlier this week. Targetted for consumers living in toxic areas in cities such as Beijing and New Delhi, the mask lights up with different colours indicating the quality of air (green if the air is good, or red if it is bad). There is also an app that keeps a track of the wear and tear of the filter. Currently available in Europe for Rs. 13,721, a global launch is expected soon.

Closer home, electronics company Xiaomi launched its first-ever anti-pollution face mask yesterday. The Mi AirPOP PM2.5 mask has four layers of filtration and an air circulation vent. It is flexible and foldable, making it easy to carry. A pack of two cost Rs 249. Available on mi.com

Get your mask on

Recommendations by Jai Dhar Gupta, environmental entrepreneur and founder of the My Right To Breathe campaign  

Name of Mask

Price

Top Features

Double Valve Vogmask₹2,000 onwards (amazon.in)two filters, reusable and washable
idMASK2Starting from ₹3,000 (nirvanabeing.com)light, airtight, ideal for sporting activities
Respokare₹3,954 for a set of 20 (rkmask.com)activated carbon filter, pollution indicator

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 12:54:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/why-there-is-a-high-demand-for-air-monitoring-devices-in-india/article25334876.ece

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