The figures scream out a scary story.
Out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 14 are in India, a WHO report says.
If that isn’t enough, sample this: 4.2 million people the world over die due to air pollution every year and 91% of the world’s population lives in areas where the air pollution levels exceed the WHO pollution guidelines.
This is an area which troubles both China and India, the two most populous nations with air pollution reaching scary levels in both the countries.
In China, the government has come up with the largest air purifier, a USD 2 million, 100-metre tall air purification tower in Xian in Shaanxi province.
In India’s capital city of Delhi, where the air has become nearly unbreathable, the state government has announced an INR 2 crore (USD 200 thousand) competition in the hope of finding a solution.
Meanwhile a group of statups in India are also doing their best to ensure people get to breathe clean air.
One such startup is Delhi-based Nanoclean. Their product Naso Filters is a stick-on fabric that is made using nanotechnology, which its makers claim, can even stop particulate matter as tiny as 2.5 microns.
The stickers, unlike the bulkier face masks, fit at the nostrils. They are made of completely biodegradable substances and are not harmful even if they enter the body.
Founders Prateek Sharma, Tushar Vyas and Jatin Kewlani, all IIT-Delhi graduates started looking for a solution to air pollution during their final year at college and came up with Nano Clean.
“The only issue in working with nano fibers is that they break easily and we created a composition of a polymer that overcomes this issue. That polymer is what we have patented,” said Prateek.
They created the fibre using nano-technology, reducing the diameter of the thread by 100 times and increased pore density by a billion times.
When the product hit the market in January 1, 2018, they already had pre-orders of 0.5 million pieces. Right now they claim, to sell 10 thousand of these one-time-use nano filters, per day in India. Each one costs INR 10.
Naso filter is currently available in medical stores in Delhi-NCR and other national medical stores across India. The product is also available online in packs of 10, 30 and 50 on retail ecommerce stores like Amazon and Flipkart and on the startup’s own website, www.nasofilters.com
“Currently we are looking at the next phase of investment, that will be pre-series, as we plan to go big in September with Diwali arriving,” an enthused Prateek Sharma told this correspondent over coffee at a Bangalore café recently.
The team plans to launch their product in 30 countries including Japan Hong Kong, Vietnam, Indonesia and Kenya.
“Most would be Asian countries,” Prateek clarified.
A UK-based global company (whose name Prateek wants to keep confidential) had recently conducted a pilot project in Beijing, China and has received positive feedback, Prateek said, adding that the product might be launched in China within a year.
By the end of the year, using the same technology, Nano Clean is also planning a line of room purifiers, AC filters, car filters and even window and door screens. These would have a durability of 5 years.
According to pulmonologist Dr Sanjay Gaikwad, the product is wonderful, but can be used only by a healthy person.
“In India, with weather changes and with other bacteria in air, every 10th person has some cough and sneeze issue.
So, this product cannot be used then. Also, during any epidemic like that of Swine Flu, the product cannot be used as it does not cover the mouth,” said Gaikwad.
He also added that a lot of bacteria and viruses are released while coughing or sneezing as well. To fight those, the product has to stop particles as small as PM 0.3 microns. He also felt that the price of the product at INR 10 was not affordable for the common man and suggested that it should cost INR 3-5 per piece.
Other startups working to fight air pollution in India include, Smart Air Filters who have developed an indoor air purifier that is claimed to be highly effective against particles sized 2.5 microns, OnMask Life Sciences, who have made come up with a washable and reusable masks, Kurin Systems who make air purifiers for cars, offices, and living spaces priced between INR 5,000 to INR 30,000 and Aurrasure, a mobile app that predicts and monitors environmental parameters and helps governments and individuals keep a check on air pollution.
According to environmentalist Virendra Chitrav, “The startups by youngsters with new and innovative ideas are surely welcome, but any invention has two sides to it. We did not know what a polymer like plastic could do, but it also caused harm. Similarly, we need to see if this product is complementary to human life and is easy to handle.”