China has become infamous due to its high levels of air pollution, but another Asian country has a staggering pollution problem as well: India. According to a study done by the World Health Organization, the Indian capital of New Delhi has the most polluted air in the world. Furthermore, the top four most polluted cities are all located in India, indicating a countrywide problem.

Pollution is monitored by measuring the size of the particulate matter (PM) in a certain concentration per a specific amount of air. In May, the New York Times reported that air pollution was found at 2.5 PM (meaning “particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter”), concentrated at 350 micrograms in one cubic meter of air. The most alarming part is the size of the particulate matter. The New York Times discloses that 2.5 PM “is believed to pose the greatest health risk because it penetrates deeply into lungs” due to its small size.

Time Magazine reports that air pollution was the “fifth largest killer in India” in 2013. A myriad of respiratory issues, some “unidentified,” were the cause of 600,000 premature deaths. The Indian Journal of Community Medicine outlined some of the medical issues directly associated with pollution in Delhi, and compared the prevalence of those issues with rural communities. Respiratory symptoms all around were 1.7 times higher, upper respiratory symptoms were 1.59 times higher, and lower respiratory symptoms were 1.67 times higher. Rates of asthma were “significantly higher” and overall lung function was diminished.

The list of problems goes on, including headache, eye and skin irritation, increased blood levels of lead, and even a connection to ADHD in children. Schools have been closed on days with especially poor air quality, parents try to keep children indoors as much as possible and physicians discourage outdoor exercise for the elderly.

The Indian Journal of Community Medicine reports that even in 1997, the amount of air pollution was excessive. 3000 metric tons of air pollution was produced by Delhi alone, “with a major contribution from vehicular pollution, followed by coal-based thermal power plants.” The study reported that there were 3.4 million cars on the roads of Delhi in 1997. That number has risen to 7.2 million in 2014.

The problem, while once neglected, can no longer be ignored. The government in Delhi has imposed some measures to decrease the amount of pollution. Various policies calling for less harmful car fuels have been instituted. Different roads and subways have been constructed, with the intention of “smoothing traffic flow.” Drivers are required to obtain a “Pollution Under Control” certificate for their vehicles as well.

Industrial policies exist as well, but their plans are far more vague in a “comprehensive document envisioning higher industrial development in Delhi, with one of its mandates being to develop clean and non-polluting industries.” While these plans are ideal, they do not explicitly call for immediate action.

Researchers call for “existing measures to be strengthened and magnified to a larger scale.” While government policies provide the guidelines, it is up to “participation of the community” to insure that reduction in pollution actually happens. Use of public transportation, continual checking of Pollution Under Control certificates and greater education on reduction measures is suggested.

-Bridget Tobin

Sources: The New York Times, National Center for Biotechnology Information, TIME
Photo: Every Stock Photo

Zhengzhou, China is one of the highest polluted cities in the world. In fact, the air pollution density has earned them the position of number 10 on the Greenpeace list of cities with the most pollution in 2013. The rankings were built by using information from the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Furthermore, the Air Quality Index (AQI) gave Zhengzhou 175 on the scale of “Good to Hazardous” levels of pollution. Their number falls within the “unhealthy” group, meaning that “everyone may begin to experience health effects, and members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.”

The city has also surpassed the capital, Beijing by 102 points on the AQI, with Beijing at 55, which is considered to have “moderate” levels of pollution.

During the last week of March, China revealed a series of pictures featuring Chinese citizens inhaling fresh mountain air from sealed bags. These pictures were part of the campaign for fresh air, issued by Laojun Mountain Natural Reserve Development Company, a travel agency.

Though mainly a publicity stunt to bring people to the resort on the Loajun Mountain, in a city filled with smog and unhealthy air, it was a hit. Thousands of people lined up to take turns inhaling the fresh air from 20 bags, which traveled over 120 miles to the city. Each person was given a few minutes to breathe in the air.

It certainly made a statement about the city’s lack of breathable air, which the World Health Organization has deemed a health crisis.

One pregnant woman mentioned to a TV reporter that she “felt [her] baby move right when [she] breathed in” the fresh mountain air.

Khurram Zhang, the sales and marketing chief of the Laojun Mountain Natural Reserve, stated that in another promotion they gathered 2,000 cans of air from the mountain and distributed them to the public.

They were all given away after 20 minutes.

– Becka Felcon

Sources: CNN, PolicyMic, UPI, The Wall Street Journal
Photo: The Wall Street Journal