New Delhi’s Air Is So Bad It’s a Health Emergency

Photo: CNN

Residents of New Delhi are “in trouble” — the city’s air quality became so unbearable this past weekend that city officials had to halt outdoor work and activities like construction, limit the cars on the road, and keep people inside – they even closed several thousand primary schools until today.  The government declared it an official public health emergency in which a toxic cloud hangs over the capital, obscuring the sky and sending people to emergency rooms with pulmonary problems.

Why This Matters:  New Delhi’s air quality is 20 times worse than what the World Health Organization considers safe.  That causes many premature deaths as well as the country’s children possibly suffering permanent brain damage from poisonous air in polluted cities. Sadly, according to The New York Times, many politicians such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi have not publicly acknowledged the problem, and the population is “fatalistic” about the poor air quality.  This could be us too — leadership matters.

How Bad Is It?

One surgeon in New Delhi, Dr. Arvind Kumar, told the Times that “90 percent of his lung cancer patients three decades ago were smokers” but now the ratio was one to one, with at least 10 percent of his clients only in their 30s.  CNN reported that the air pollution was so bad over the weekend that 37 flights were diverted from the city’s Indira Gandhi International Airport because they could not see to land.  Pollution at this time of year is worse than their normally poor air quality because farmers light fires to clear their land and there is lingering smoke from fireworks that were set off to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights over the weekend.  On Friday, officials began to distribute 5 million face masks to schoolchildren in the city.

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