Air Quality Index and Permeable Pollutants
I could feel that the air was heavy, I was short of breath more often, and it hurt to breathe. I figured some of this could be due to the billowing black smoke diving out from the backs of trucks and cars, as well as the burning plastic and grass that charred the ground and fumed up into the air. Dust would also rise up as cars or wind took to the dirt roads. I would periodically be cleaning bits of red sand from my glasses, the corners of my eyes, and around my nostrils. I also took a guess that there may not be many safe regulations around different industrial sites in the city.
A world away and years later in New Delhi, I looked on at auto-rickshaw drivers and acknowledged the fact that they spent hours a day, everyday toting people around the city. They breathed in the air, many not wearing any protection, and the thought of this made me want to change the reality, however small of a change that could be. The sources of air pollution came beyond the rows of vehicles that passed by each other daily, but what is in the air exactly, that makes it so harmful to breathe?
The non-profit World Air Quality Index runs a real-time world air quality index by gathering data from over 10,000 air monitoring stations around the world. Selection of which stations to choose is based off of multiple Environmental Protection Agencies' standards. Because the data is in real-time, validity is not ensured, but multiple measures are set in place to detect abnormal readings to enhance accuracy. There are various types of air pollutants that are measured, and here I focus on particulate matter.
Claire and I were in the car with her daughter, listening to rock that would pop up on the commercial-less radio station. The windows were down and the air was whistling through the car, brushing up on my face with a warmness that was soothing. I peered out of the car at the changing landscape, the city shifting in my perspective, slowly being replaced by green and yellow foliage that clung to the ground. They stood still, rooted, though tall and I imagined that the tall grass would sway had there been a breeze. There were less of the huge vulture-type birds circling in the sky, as there was less trash to feed on outside of the city. Each person felt distinct, as I observed the few that were peppered within the new terrain.
We drove off on the side of the road, approaching the equator. There were no huge signs or large amounts of people. You would probably not guess that the equator was there if you hadn't been searching for it.
Squeamish warning...this story includes a recount of me getting a hookworm. The pictures are included under "Read More".
I walked down the dirt road, carrying a blue felt bag filled with groceries in each hand. Avoiding the ditch that lay bordering the outer edge of the main street, I looked around to make sure I could walk across. That’s how it went here, there were no crosswalks, traffic signals, though later on some started to be created. “Ah!” I cried out in pain and stopped in my tracks. I put down the bags and doubled over, breathing steadily to manage the pain that shot through my thigh. What’s going on, I wondered, as the pain started to cool off. I had been getting foot cramps frequently for the past couple of months, and figured that something must be out of line with how my feet were resting in my sandals. Maybe I am wearing them too much, I have high arches and probably need some more support. Over the last week, the pains in my feet had grown, and I was constantly scratching at the underside of my left foot. There were a couple of bumps that looked like mosquito bites, and they itched like no other bite that I have had. I resisted scratching, knowing that there was already a level of irritation that happened by the level of contact the bumps had just by being on the bottom of my foot.
I wanted to sit down though, my legs felt weak and rest knocked at my door. I opened the gate to the house I stayed at, and entered in guided by a loud creak and a series of metal on metal bangs, who showed no shyness to scream that they had made contact. Sitting down on the couch on the porch, I put down the bags and kicked off my sandals. I bent in my left leg, forming a pretzel shape, and looked at the bottom of my foot. There were red lines covering the bottom, they were lifted and could be felt by running a finger over them. This, is not a normal mosquito bite, I thought. I can’t ride this one out, waiting for it to heal.
Thank you for visiting! This is my personal blog, where I write about social justice, geography, culture, and my own encounters and reflections from around the world.