“For the first time ever, more than 1,800 public primary schools in India’s capital will close on Saturday to protect children from exposure to dangerous levels of air pollution, the authorities said on Friday. The decision affects more than a million children.
A thick, acrid smog has settled over the capital over the past week, a combination of smoke from burning crops in surrounding agricultural states, fireworks on the Hindu festival of Diwali, dust and vehicle emissions.
Levels of the most dangerous particles, called PM 2.5, reached 600 micrograms per cubic meter in different parts of the city this week, according to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee. Sustained exposure to that concentration of PM 2.5 is equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes a day, said Sarath Guttikunda, the director of Urban Emissions, an independent research group. The particles are small enough to deeply penetrate the lungs and enter the bloodstream, increasing the risk of stroke and heart failure, and can cause severe respiratory problems including asthma and pneumonia.
Conditions in the metropolis, home to about 20 million people, were particularly bad this week because there was little wind and the cloud of pollutants was “just going round and round,” Mr. Guttikunda said. Teachers and parents said the effects on children were visible. Meenakshi Sahni, the principal of the Modern School, closed her private school because of air pollution for the first time on Friday and advised parents via text message to keep their children indoors. There was “widespread coughing” among students and faculty members this week, she said. “You could actually feel that there was something weighing down on them physically,” Ms. Sahni said. “Even at the gathering in the auditorium, you could feel as if somebody is strangling you.”
Foreigners and Indian elites have expressed growing alarm about winter air pollution in recent years, and some embassies have begun discouraging families with children from moving here…” The New York Times. Read the full story on delhiair.org.