Delhi witnessing heavy air pollution

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Red Alert! 

On Wednesday November 8, New York City’s AQI (Air Quality Index) was 16. Beijing, the capital of China, reached about 122. Mexico City, Mexico, got to 151. But New Delhi’s AQI reached 1,010 on WednesdayHazardous pollution alert! All schools in India’s capital are therefore remaining shut until Sunday. 

What is air pollution?

Air pollution is the dirtying of air by smoke and harmful gases, such as carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen.

Human activity is a major cause of smoke and harmful gases, especially in large cities. Pollution is caused by emissions (smoke and bi products that are let out)  from factories, power plants, cars, airplanes, chemicals, fumes from spray cans, and methane gas from landfills (garbage dumps). One of the ways that humans cause the most air pollution is by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.

How do cities measure the quality of their air?

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a measure of air pollution. The chart goes up to 500. Anything over 100 can be dangerous for people to breathe.

Government agencies use the AQI to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is forecasted to become. As the AQI increases, a larger percentage of the population is likely to experience increasingly severe adverse health effects.

So, what is happening in New Delhi, India?

A family in Delhi ride through the thick smog. Photograph: Harish Tyagi/EPA

New Delhi is the capital of India. A dense toxic smog has descended over the city and neighbouring areas. This smog is a layer of fine poisonous particles and dust, leading to near zero visibility at many places. These particles are particularly worrying because they have the ability to enter lungs and blood tissue and cause serious health problems. People are blaming the burning of crops in neighboring states, industrial and vehicle emissions a cause for the toxic particles in the air.

The 25 million people in this city often have to deal with breathing polluted air. But as the winter season gets closer, the problem is getting worse. Hot air rises, and cold air is denser and descends. Slow winds and colder temperatures in the winter in Delhi, have not allowed the polluted air to rise up and leave the area. They have actually brought the airborne pollutants closer to the ground and kept them there, like a poisonous blanket over the city.

 Arvind Kejriwal is the city’s chief minister. “Delhi is choking,” he wrote online on Twitter. He added that he plans to meet with leaders in other states to find solutions.

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