Air pollution reaches toxic levels in Indian capital after Diwali

New Delhi, Nov 15 (efe-epa).- The Indian capital of New Delhi and other cities in northern India on Sunday witnessed a cloak of toxic haze following indiscriminate burning of firecrackers overnight on the occasion of Diwali, the festival of lights, despite bans due to the threat posed by the novel coronavirus.

The Delhi Pollution Control Committee recorded concentrations of PM10 – particles with diameter less than 10 microns – and PM2.5 – less than 2.5 microns – several times higher than levels considered “toxic” by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the southern part of New Delhi, near Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, PM10 levels reached 1,641 particles per cubic meter, while PM2.5 levels were 1,438 around midnight, when firecracker explosions were ubiquitous in the Indian capital.

Although the concentration of these particles had dropped significantly by daybreak, they still remained above levels considered harmful to health.

The World Health Organization considers concentration of PM10 particles above 100 to be life threatening for sensitive groups – especially the elderly, children and people with respiratory ailments – and above 300 is considered toxic to all people.

The situation this morning was similar in other cities in northern India, even though a court specializing in environmental cases on Monday banned the sale and use of firecrackers in the most polluted cities, among them New Delhi.

The ban by the National Green Tribunal came amid concerns that the burning of firecrackers may aggravate the “menace of Covid-19 pandemic, posing higher danger to the lives and health of the vulnerable groups.”

Several studies have linked air pollution to a greater number of Covid-19 cases.

A study by Xiao Wu and Rachel C. Nethery of Harvard University found a correlation between long-term exposure to fine particle matter (PM 2.5) and mortality from the coronavirus.

New Delhi has recorded an increase of 7,340 new cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, according to the Indian Ministry of Health. The capital city has been reporting the highest increase in daily cases over the last few days.

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