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What's PM 2.5 and why is New Delhi, Lahore smog so bad?

What's PM 2.5 and why is New Delhi, Lahore smog so bad?
From Al Jazeera - November 8, 2017

Enveloped by a thick, choking shroud of toxic smog, New Delhi has declared a public health emergency.

Schools closed on Wednesday, the second day of the fog crisis, and will remain shut until Sunday.

Pollution trackers suggest the fog has reached the worst level so far this year, and is so high that breathing in air has been compared with being worse than smoking 50 cigarettes a day.

Fog pollution in #Delhi today is that bad that it started to cause accidents on the road ! #pollution #airpocalypse pic.twitter.com/Gf2SLAgfDK

Mgane Guillaume (@MeganeGuillaume) November 8, 2017

In neighbouring Pakistan, too, flights were cancelled in Lahore, school times were delayed and hospitals overflowed.

In New Delhi, smog levels of PM 2.5, the particles most damaging to health, have reached 40 times the World Health Organization's safe limit.

Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, was quick to comment on the worsening pollution situation in the capital.

"Every year this happens during this part of year. We have to find a solution to crop burning in adjoining states," he said, referring to smoke caused by the burning of crops in the northern Indian states near Delhi.

An estimated 35 million tonnes are set afire in Punjab and Haryana every year, which contributes to the haze and smog in New Delhi.

What is happening?

We are approaching what is known as the "fog season". This occurs as the northeasterly monsoon draws in cool, dry air from the Himalayas.

Why?

How long will it go on?

What are the effects?

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