Story at a glance
- New Delhi, India is experiencing its worst air quality in three years. The government has declared a public health emergency.
- Concentrations of dangerous particulate in the air were 25 times higher than safe levels determined by the World Health Organization.
- Past research has suggested air pollution may kill more than 1 million Indians each year.
New Delhi, India is the most polluted city in the world, but in recent days it recorded its worst air quality in three years. In response, the government has declared a public health emergency, shutting down schools and banning residents from operating private vehicles, the Washington Post reports.
The decline in air quality is typical this time of year, as the temperature drops and winds grow languid. Even people without lung problems may find themselves coughing and out of breath under the blanket of toxic smog. That smog, made up of smoke, motor exhaust, factory emissions and construction dust, is enough to make people’s eyes water.
At its worst, the air in Delhi contained 25 times the amount of harmful particulates considered safe by the World Health Organization. An Indian official has referred to the region, home to 29 million people, as a “gas chamber.”
Hospitals have reported an increase in patients with breathing issues, and research has suggested air pollution could kill more than 1 million Indians every year, more than cigarettes.