What is winter smog?
When you think of winters, you think of cold weather, beautiful sweaters and these days, face masks and air purifiers because all you can see from your window is a thick layer of smog! Unlike a fog, which is a naturally occurring phenomenon and pleasant in nature, smog is caused by humans and can be far from pleasant.
So now that we’re in the midst of winter, it is important that we understand how dangerous smog really is and what we should do to steer clear of its harmful effects.
What turns fog into a smog?
The science of what causes a smog is pretty simple. Due to the rising cold, particles and pollutants which otherwise settle on the ground start to rise up and mix with the air and fog. This is called as a temperature inversion. Once these particles mix in the air, they form a deadly cloud and this is the smog you see hampering your way to work and making it difficult for you to breathe.
What are these pollutants and how harmful are they?
To put it mildly, very bad. We all know about air pollution and how harmful it is. But smog is at a different level because it spreads everywhere and can hamper your day to day life. Let’s take a quick look at what all can be found inside a smog cloud.
Industrial Pollutants – Fumes from factories which are an outcome of burning fossil fuels and coal, along with certain other chemical additives mingle with the fog and make it a toxic smog cloud.
Vehicular Emissions – The most likely culprit-our transport syste. Cars, buses, trucks and rickshaws, all in sync on busy roads all day long let out enough emissions to cause a smog cloud of its own.
Man Made Fires – Crop burning, celebrations, winter bonfires etc may seem inconsequential, but when you add all of it together, it can become a major threat.
Infrastructural Pollutants – The construction boom has its advantages, but along with those, it also puts out a significant amount of dust, gravel and other pollutants that make the smog heavier and closer to home.
How bad can smog be for me?
All of us have a likelihood of thinking that we have stayed around smog and air pollution for long enough to be immune to it. But that is far from the truth. Some of the effects of smog show up pretty immediately such as irritation of the throat, itchiness in the eyes and general discomfort. But unfortunately, smog doesn’t stop at that. Taking in the toxic fumes can lead to your immune system being affected, slowly but steadily. In some cases, the damage may go on for years before realization strikes. It goes without saying that for people with conditions like Asthma, smog is a major red flag. Like we mentioned, smog contains many small pollutants and most of them can trigger allergies in people with asthma, thus causing frequent attacks.
While a cold and cough may be a small outcome of smog, for many people, including healthy and able-bodied adults, the chances of contracting Bronchitis are much higher all thanks to smog. For the elderly, along with Bronchitis, there is also the danger of pneumonia, so one needs to be additionally careful.
Now that the smog has taken over, what can I do?
For starters, stay indoors as much as you can. Do the same for children and elders. Early mornings and late evenings are the times when smog gathers the most. Be vary of stepping out at these times. For additional precaution, use an air purifier at home, but this can only be used as a temporary respite, not a fool proof measure.
Remember, at the end of it all, a smog attack is something that we cannot take lightly anymore. If you feel more discomfort then there should be, or are feeling persistently fatigued and irritated, its time you consult your physician and see if it’s the smog that has been harming you.