Indian Capital Faces Health Emergency as November Air Quality Hits Worst Level in 7 Years

© AP Photo / Altaf QadriSmog envelopes the skyline in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020
Smog envelopes the skyline in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020 - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.12.2021
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About 57,000 of 2020's premature deaths in New Delhi could be attributed to air pollution, Greenpeace India said in its report released in September. The report added that the city's annual average air pollution levels exceeded the WHO's 2005 air quality guidelines (AQG) nearly by a factor of eight and the new AQGs by 17.4 times.
India's Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data has revealed that Delhi's air quality for November was the worst it has been in the past seven years, with the capital city witnessing "severe" air pollution for 11 days and not a single "good" air quality day.
The 30-day average of the city's air quality index (AQI) stood at 376 - a reading above 300 is considered hazardous and can cause difficulties in breathing for average person without any lung problems.
With experts and doctors calling it a health emergency, many hospitals in Delhi - including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Apollo Hospitals, Fortis, Max Super Speciality Hospital and Sir Ganga Ram - and neighbouring areas have seen a surge in patients reporting chest congestion, coughs and breathing problems.
New Delhi's PM2.5 concentration (particles no more than 2.5 micrometres in diameter) is 34 times higher than the World Health Organization's (WHO) acceptable levels.
There are three main reasons for the raised AQI: farmers burning stubble in their fields, Diwali (when people let off firecrackers) which falls mainly between late October and early November, and weather conditions.
Speaking to Sputnik on Wednesday, Dr Manoj Kumar Goel, director of pulmonology at Fortis Gurugram, near Delhi, said: "There is no doubt that we received more patients with existing respiratory problems and current pollution level is aggravating their problems. But we are also seeing new patients complaining of respiratory problems, more cases of anxiety and sleeplessness."

Air pollution can cause various neurological disorders as the result of inflammation of the nervous system, says a study published in a journal frontiersin.org in December 2020. The study further adds that: "Neuronal cell damage caused by fine dust, especially in foetuses and infants, can cause permanent brain damage or lead to neurological disease in adulthood."

Dr. Shonit Kantroo, a paediatrician at a Delhi government hospital, also told Sputnik that new-borns and infants exposed to such conditions are more likely to face complications later.
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