Delhi: Sale of air filters shoots, early bird gets the mask
After last year's winter pollution scare, whereby a dust storm originating in the Gulf enveloped Delhi/NCR in a thick brown haze, residents are not taking any chances this time. Instead of expensive indoor air purifiers, affordable face masks are their 'weapon of choice' this season.
Most online stores are reporting great sales in this latest "health and fashion accessory". Portal 'Nirvana Being', for example, which also has a shop at Khan Market in South Delhi, told Mail Today that it has already sold 500 per cent more such masks this October as opposed to the same month in year 2017.
"A trend of early purchases is being noticed as people are avoiding waiting till Diwali in November when things will get far worse and long queues will be noticed at chemists," informed Jai Dhar Gupta, the owner.
Orders are now being placed from even smaller towns in Uttar Pradesh (UP), hill stations like Pune and coastal states like Goa as more of them figure on the annual World Health Organisation (WHO) list of "most polluted spots on the globe". Also, air filtration masks have emerged as a great gifting option for Diwali as more people realise that 'health is wealth'.
Deepak Kumar, a supervisor at the Apollo Pharmacy in G Block, Connaught Place, said, "Companies have been buying masks from us in bulk to gift to their employees on Diwali. We understand that HR departments have been taking this initiative." Last winter was a shocker for most Delhiites as a cloud of smog descended on the city post Diwali (October 19).
After a multi-day dust storm rose in the Gulf -- Kuwait, Iran and Saudi Arabia -- a heavy influx of grainy Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 and PM 10 was seen in Delhi-NCR's ambient environment. Crop residue burning in Punjab and Haryana added to it.
Air quality remained 'severe' and worse (as per the National Air Quality Index) from November 7-13, leading to many instances of hospitalisation of those suffering from asthma and other respiratory diseases, and more OPD (Out Patient Dept.) cases coming in.
"We stock only two varieties of masks. One is the Vogmask which has an N99 filter (meaning it can keep out 99 per cent impurities) and an activated carbon layer that removes odour and gases. The other type is 'id Sports Pollution Mask' which is especially for athletes as they suck in more air while exercising. Both are selling very well," said Jai Dhar Gupta of Nirvana Being. In the market, generally, a range of masks with filters of capacity - N95, N99, N100, P95 and P100 -- are available which absorb chemicals, viruses and bacteria as well.
Some have double exhale valves above the nostrils to prevent build-up of Carbon Dioxide inside. "As news starts circulating of air quality going down, people will be concerned for their health and purchase masks. Our retailers and distributors in Delhi have already started receiving queries and we are stocking up on both masks for children and adults," said Kusha Gupta, Assistant Manager of Sales, Honeywell, an American MNC which specialises on personal care products. She said she sold more masks in year 2016 winter than 2017 as in some respects, the air quality was worse at that time. While doctors are not exactly advising air masks for the general populace that is not suffering from pulmonary diseases already, even small drug stores are doing well, selling the `5-20 disposable green surgical masks. "It got so bad last year, we sold almost 2,000 pieces in November," said Naveen Goyal of Safdarjung Medicos, next to the hospital. "Also, our clientele was not the regular expats and NRI population, but the middle class and lower middle class as well," he said.