Monday, December 24, 2018

Fears of health crisis as Delhi suffers worst air pollution this year

Mon 24 Dec 2018 05.45 EST
Last modified on Mon 24 Dec 2018 07.12 EST

Pollution in Delhi has reached its worst level this year in the past two days, prompting authorities to rate conditions as “severe to emergency”, which indicates the potential for a public health crisis.

Senior government officials said the main reasons for the increase in smog were unusually cold air, fog and a lack of wind.

Such conditions trap vehicle fumes and pollution from coal-fired power plants, industry and domestic fires over the city.

Data from the government’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) showed the air quality index, which measures the concentration of poisonous particulate matter, was an average of 449 on Monday, only slightly better than 450 on Sunday.

The index measures the concentration of PM 2.5, particles that can be carried deep into the lungs. The previous highest recording this year was 447 on 15 June, when there was a dust storm. Anything above 100 is considered unhealthy.

India’s weather department said the index reached 654 in some parts of the city, and visibility was down to as little as 200 metres.

Environmentalists said the authorities’ inaction was inexcusable and a concerted effort was needed to reduce pollution from vehicles and industry.

“If this is not an emergency, then what is?” asked the Delhi-based environmentalist Vimlendu Jha.

The “severe to emergency” rating means the air is not only hazardous for citizens with existing respiratory problems but can also seriously affect healthy people.


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