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Education

Delhi Primary Schools to Shut Down as Smog Forces ‘State of Medical Emergency’

The photos being posted on social media are apocalyptic — a thick layer of smog smothering buildings, parks, and city streets. 

For the second year in a row, India’s capital, Delhi, has virtually shut down due to dangerous levels of air pollution. Officials at the Indian Medical Association (IMA) have declared a “state of medical emergency,” as pollution levels have reached 30 times the World Health Organization's recommended limit, BBC reports.

The effect on an individual’s lungs from pollution that high would be equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes in a single day, according to The Guardian.   

Last year, pollution forced schools to close for three days around the time of the Hindu festival of Diwali. 

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On Tuesday, Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia announced that all primary schools (or about 1,800 in total) will close Wednesday. 

"We have decided to shut schools up to primary level for a day, and will evaluate the situation on an hourly basis to see if such a closure needs to be extended,” he said, according to Yahoo.  

IMA officials have warned tourists and locals to stay inside, and cautioned the city to cancel a half-marathon due to take place in the city, according to the Guardian. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal went as far as to call the city a “gas chamber.” 

The fog contains dangerous particles called PM2.5, which can cause acute asthma attacks and even lung cancer, according to Dr. Arvind Kumar, who spoke with the Guardian

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Children are more susceptible to inhaling harmful pollutants than adults are for several reasons, including taking shallower breaths, breathing more often with their mouths, and exhibiting higher heart rates than adults. 

Read More: Air Pollution in India Is Rivaling China as World’s Deadliest

“Apart from respiratory distress, sustained exposure to air pollutants such as sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter lowers immunity and raises the risk of viral and bacterial infections,” Dr. RK Singhal told the Hindustan Times

Since last year’s school closures, the Indian government has taken several measures to address rampant air pollution in what is the most heavily polluted capital city in the world. 

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Last October, the government shut down a power plant and instituted several traffic restrictions such as “odd-even” days that limit driving personal automobiles by license plate number.

Read More: Polluted River in India Is Literally Bubbling With Toxic Foam

But some say that the measures have not done enough to stem Delhi’s pollution. 

"Delhi is becoming unlivable, particularly for children, as the pollution has reached uncontrollable levels,” a real estate agent who lives in Delhi told Yahoo

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