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India's Capital New Delhi Hopes for Rain to Wash Away Suffocating Smog

From TIME - November 13, 2017

For more than a week, New Delhi has been gasping for breath. As unprecedented, emergency levels of toxic smog continue to choke Indias capital, much of the citys daily grind has been halted. Construction work has stopped. Airlines have cancelled or re-routed flights. And hospitals are overwhelmed with cases of respiratory illness, even children vomiting, because of the acrid air.

It wasnt like this five years ago, Anupam Sibal, a medical director and senior pediatrician told The New York Times, adding that his hospital has seen a 30% to 35% increase in patients.

The Indian Medical Association has declared the situation a public health emergency and recommends that residents do not to leave their homes.

Amid the health scare, United Airlines suspended flights to New Delhi from November 9 to 13, though some routes were reportedly set to resume on Sunday night.

Noxious air is a perennial problem in populous New Delhi, where air pollution readings have long ranked among the worlds worst, surpassing even notorious Beijing. Last year, the toxic smog that enveloped the city after a firework-filled Diwali festival was record breaking. But this year its worse than ever, with haze from illegal field burning exacerbating the situation.

This past week, readings of the most harmful particulate matter, called PM2.5, exceeded 1,000 parts per million on the U.S. EPAs air quality index, ABC reported. Ratings of PM2.5 between the levels of 121-250 are normally considered very poor with health side effects possible after prolonged ingestion of the fine particles. Levels above 250 are called severe with respiratory impacts likely even among the healthiest. A rating of 1,000 soars far beyond the chart.

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