You can’t have missed the media screaming about the appalling air pollution that covers Delhi and much of the north western part of the country right now. For good reason, too. When it comes to air pollution, this is as bad as it gets. No one is spared, young, old or healthy. At these levels, everyone suffers from the health implications.
The map below comes from Null School, a real-time visualization of weather and particulate matter in the Earth’s atmosphere. Blue means lower concentrations and dark red means higher, much higher levels.
Compare this to North America, where the danger hotspots are restricted to the major cities.
In the last two days, the concentration of PM2.5 particles – the most harmful kind because they can cause serious respiratory problems – has literally gone off the charts. The US Embassy maintains a monitoring station that turns the concentration of these particles into an index score of between 0 and 500. The people behind the index never imagined that the concentration of PM2.5 particles could exceed a certain threshold.
On the 8th November, not only did the concentration of these harmful particles exceed the index limits, it doubled what many thought would be possible. This is why the media is screaming right now about the awful air quality.
None of this is a surprise though. It happens without fail every year. And it’s not entirely something that the Delhi Government can control. The burning of crop fields in Rajasthan and Punjab is almost entirely responsible for this surge in particulate matter in the atmosphere.
The number of cars and brick kilns don’t help matters, nor does the plunging temperatures which cause early morning fog. The weather patter has a part to play as well because a lack of circulation over north India right now means that instead of dispersing, the pollution is being herded and concentrated into a single area. It’s like the perfect storm right now.
The advice to stay indoors is not enough. The air quality in your home can be even worse than it is outside because it becomes trapped and concentrated further. An air purifier helps, but even that may not be enough at this level of pollution. In such cases, you need a high quality, high power air purifier, and unfortunately they can be quite expensive.
The most effective option, which for the vast majority of people, isn’t an option, is to leave the city for a few weeks until the pollution levels come back down.
Take care, people of Delhi and north India!