As the national capital was enveloped in a blanket of thick haze with air quality dropping to a hazardous level, people rushed to buy masks to protect themselves, even as doctors remained apprehensive about their efficacy.
Asserting that there is not enough data on the efficacy of masks, AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria said, "Masks are not very helpful as a lot of air can get inside from the sides. Also children and elderly find them very uncomfortable to use."
"Moreover, there is not much evidence about their efficacy," he said, adding the use of nasal filters or air purifiers can provide short-term relief only.
He suggested implementing long-term measures for getting relief for pollution and initiating a movement to protect the environment.
Masks are available in various designs and patterns. Low-priced masks include the ones meant for one-time use, while the high-priced ones are fitted with air filters.
A senior doctor at a private hospital said though surgical masks are the most common ones available in the market, they are not that effective and suggested that one should opt for masks with two valves or vents.
Also, one can use masks with sub-micron filters as they do not allow dust particles to reach the lungs, the doctor said.
Delhi today woke up to 'severe' air quality today with a thick haze blanketing the city as pollution levels breached permissible standards by multiple times.
The air quality index was in the 'severe', with a score of 448 in a scale of 500, category for the second time this year. Earlier, Diwali fireworks had triggered peak pollution levels on October 20.
Central Pollution Control Board member secretary A Sudhakar informed Supreme Court mandated green body EPCA that smoke-laden air from neighbouring Punjab and Haryana and moisture-heavy winds from the eastern region had combined with local pollutants triggering the situation.
"We are not expecting a dramatic change in the next two-three days. Shallow fog is preventing the dissipation of pollutants at the ground level," Sudhakar said.
The Delhi government announced that primary schools would be closed tomorrow in view of deteriorating air pollution conditions. Moreover, all schools have been asked to stop outdoor activities, including morning assemblies.
A number of schools in Delhi suspended outdoor activities and advised parents to ensure their children wear masks.
The EPCA asked the Delhi-NCR governments to start preparing for measures like odd-even and a complete ban on construction activities if pollution aggravates.