In what has become a chronic condition for the city of 22 million, New Delhi is once again choking on extremely high levels of air pollution. In parts of the city, air quality index (AQI) readings have hit 999—the equivalent of smoking 45 cigarettes a day.
But 999 is the maximum reading on air monitors, which means actual levels are likely higher.
PM2.5 air pollution hits babies and the elderly hardest, and exposure in the womb has long been associated with an array of adverse birth outcomes like preterm birth and low birth weight.
But residents don’t just have PM2.5 to worry about. Other air pollution molecules, like the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in diesel exhaust, are known to raise cancer risk, especially in people exposed to the stuff as a fetus. Other pollutants affect the heart; still others are neurotoxins. Air pollution also impairs immune development in utero, making it harder for those exposed to fight infection later in life.
Prominent doctors advise against morning walk in Delhi and in other polluted cities.
"Exercising is vital for health but not when we are breathing poison," the health advisory issued as part of 'my right to breathe' campaign, stated.
"On Thursday, I opened the chest of a 21-year-old girl for biopsy. Her lungs were black which is reflective of the amount of toxins inhaled and deposited," said a Surgeon.
Globally, chronic exposure to air pollution causes roughly 7 million people to die prematurely each year.
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