NEW DELHI :
Air pollution in New Delhi is so severe that even nonsmokers here inhale the equivalent of 50 cigarettes on an extreme day, turning the city of 25 million into what a local political leader describes as "a gas chamber."
With smog choking the city day after day since November, inhabitants of India's capital are increasingly looking for ways to protect themselves.
Prateek Sharma believes he has a solution.
The 25-year-old chief executive's startup, Nanoclean Global, has developed a nasal filter that can restrict the entry of harmful particles into the body -- at a cost of just 10 rupees (about 16 cents) each.
"We have built this very unique [product] using nanotechnology," Sharma told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview.
Sold under the name Nasofilters, the product is placed directly into the nostrils. The company claims the filters can block 95% PM2.5 -- particulate matter 2.5 microns in size or smaller and the most prominent pollutant in the city's air. PM2.5 is a major cause of respiratory problems and heart ailments.
Sharma said his filter is different from other antipollution products -- generally facemasks that use multiple layers of filters.
When a particle touches the outside barrier of these masks, it can collect in a filtering layer. "After a few days you actually have to dispose it off -- despite having bought it for hundreds of rupees -- because it chokes," he said.
The startup began at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi in 2015, the year Sharma graduated. Sharma, who studied civil engineering, and two other alumni -- Tushar Vyas and Jatin Kewlani -- co-founded the company, along with support from some faculty members. It also has major financial backing from the Indian government through grants from the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology. The company has raised nearly $400,000 in the form of government grants and investment from IIT alumni, Sharma said.