Being my birth place and the city I grew up in, Delhi has always got profound love from me. However, multiple developments in the last few years have forced me to think if the city I call home is the right place for me to bring up my child.
My daughter, Avika, was born in October 2016 - just before the AQI touched hazardous levels that year. Since the air quality was expected to get worse, we immediately bought an air purifier to protect our new born. As she completed 6 months, she developed wheezing and was advised the nebuliser. Over the years she has suffered multiple wheezing attacks and has been prescribed anti-allergy medication and steroid inhalers.
Young children are highly prone to developing breathing issues. The AQI soars to toxic levels from October through March every year. Even though schools shut down for a few days, the AQI is at hazardous levels through most of the winter season. As a parent, I am often caught in a dilemma whether to send my child outdoors to allow her the childhood that she rightfully deserves, or to protect her from the toxic air that could have a hazardous effect on her health. The dilemma is even harder when it comes to school. Every morning I used to check the AQI in Airveda app and fret whether I should send Avika to school or not, not knowing how stringent the school will be about managing her outdoor time when air quality is very poor.
Thankfully, Avika’s school, The Ardee School has installed the requisite air purifying systems and Airveda air quality monitoring systems to allow students to breathe clean air inside school premises. Parents can check real time readings on the Ardee website which provides information on the PM 2.5/ PM10/AQI being maintained in the school campus and in the classrooms. A link, when clicked, takes me to a webpage which looks like below. It shows the average air quality indoors across classrooms for the day in comparison with outdoors enabling me to check at any time what Avika is breathing at school. This has been a huge relief and really helped me feel more in control of her air pollution exposure at school.
Continuous monitoring of air quality has enabled the school to take several proactive steps to provide a safe environment for Avika.
- They have introduced visual flags which indicate air pollution levels. “Red-flag” days which indicate hazardous levels, and are notified explicitly to parents and students. All outdoor activities are avoided on such days.
- Indoor sports spaces have been created with integration of smart - sensor - controlled air cleaning technologies. The school ensures that the Airveda monitors show safe air quality in these spaces at 8 am before school starts.
I have been impressed with some of the other initiatives the school has taken to ensure cleaner air at school like
- Encouraging parents to adopt carpooling.
- Training the housekeeping team to avoid sweeping and only adopt double wet swabbing.
- Examining drop-off and pick-up procedures to minimize emissions and exposure.
- Incentivize children to walk/bicycle/ bus/carpool to school.
- Launching campaign against diesel cars for drop offs/pick-ups.
- Conducting facility audits for filtration/ventilation to manage PM2.5 mitigation and CO2 management in all indoor student areas of the School.
- Making pollution masks mandatory on red flag days.
In addition they have also ensured that the infirmary at school is well equipped with oxygen cylinders, nebulizers etc. to deal with any emergencies.
Finally to ensure that children are not missing out on learning due to the many holidays in lieu of hazardous pollution, the school has adopted eLearning as a solution for those days to allow children to study from home.
I am grateful to Ardee school for giving me peace of mind knowing that they are doing everything in their power to protect my child and to Airveda for building technologies which have enabled Ardee to create a safe and healthy environment for my child. I know several schools are now implementing various steps to mitigate air pollution exposure for students. I would love to hear from parents and schools, regarding various steps they have taken. Hopefully, we can all learn from each other, to enable our children to breathe clean air (as much as is possible) during the time they are at school.