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An Experiment with Air Purifiers in Delhi during Winter 2015-2016

By Dean Spears, Nikhil Srivastav, Sangita Vyas, on December 15th, 2016

Particulate pollution has important consequences for human health, and is an issue of global concern. Outdoor air pollution has become a cause for alarm in India in particular because recent data suggest that ambient pollution levels in Indian cities are some of the highest in the world. We study the number of particles between 0.5μm and 2.5μm indoors while using affordable air purifiers in the highly polluted city of Delhi. Though substantial reductions in indoor number concentrations are observed during air purifier use, indoor air quality while using an air purifier is frequently worse than in cities with moderate pollution, and often worse than levels observed even in polluted cities. When outdoor pollution levels are higher, on average, indoor pollution levels while using an air purifier are also higher. Moreover, the ratio of indoor air quality during air purifier use to two comparison measures of air quality without an air purifier are also positively correlated with outdoor pollution levels, suggesting that as ambient air quality worsens there are diminishing returns to improvements in indoor air quality during air purifier use. The findings of this study indicate that although the most affordable air purifiers currently available are associated with significant improvements in the indoor environment, they are not a replacement for public action in regions like Delhi. Although private solutions may serve as a stopgap, reducing ambient air pollution must be a public health and policy priority in any region where air pollution is as high as Delhi’s during the winter.

Download Published: PLoS One       Geography: New Delhi