The US and Canada saw dangerous smog this week. This is a common risk for many developing countries

WASHINGTON: Thick, smoky air from Canadian wildfires caused misery for days in New York City and parts of the US Northeast this week. But for the rest of the world, breathing dangerously polluted air is an unavoidable fact of life — and death.
Almost the entire world occasionally breathes air that exceeds World Health Organization air quality limits. The risk is exacerbated when bad winds persist — typically in developing or newly industrialized countries — rather than the dreaded shield hitting the United States. Most of the 4.2 million deaths were caused by outdoor air Pollution occurred in 2019, according to the United Nations Health Organization.
„Air pollution knows no borders and it’s time for everyone to come together to fight it,” said Pavreen Gandhari, co-founder of India’s Warrior Moms, a network of mothers pushing for clean air and climate action in a country of few. The worst air in the world. „What we are seeing in America should shake us all.”
„This is a severe air pollution episode in the United States,” said Jeremy Sarnott, professor of environmental health at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. „But it’s very common to millions and millions of people in other parts of the world.”
Last year, 9 out of 10 cities were in Asia – including six in India, according to air quality firm IQAir, which aggregates measurements from ground-level monitoring stations worldwide.
Particulate matter, sometimes referred to as PM 2.5, refers to airborne particles or water droplets that are 2.5 microns or smaller. It’s much smaller than a human hair, and particles can go deep into the lungs, causing eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, as well as affecting heart function.
Sajjad Haider, a 31-year-old shopkeeper in Lahore, Pakistan, rides his motorcycle to work every day. He wears a mask and goggles against the frequent air pollution in the city of 11 million people, but suffers from eye infections, breathing problems and chest congestion. Smoky Grows in winter.
On her doctor’s advice, she relies on hot water and steam to clean her chest, but she says she can’t follow the doctor’s advice.
„I can’t afford a car and can’t run my business without a motorcycle,” Haider said.
Last year, Lahore had an average concentration of fine particulate matter of nearly 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air. By comparison, New York City’s concentration reached 303 at one point on Wednesday.
But New York’s air generally falls within healthy levels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s exposure limit is no more than 35 micrograms per day, and no more than 12 micrograms per day for long-term exposure. New York’s annual average has been 10 or less for the past two years.
New Delhi, home to more than 20 million Gandhari residents, regularly tops the list of many Indian cities to suffocate as it grays the capital’s skies and obscures buildings and monuments. It’s worse in the fall, when crop residue burning in neighboring states coincides with cooler temperatures that trap deadly smoke over the city, sometimes for weeks.
Vehicle smoke and firecrackers burst during Hinduism Diwali Festivals are crippled by the effects of coughs, headaches, flight delays and highway pile-ups. The government is sometimes asking residents to work from home or carpool, some schools are going online, and families who can afford them are turning to air purifiers.
On Thursday, New Delhi became the world’s second most polluted city, according to daily data from most air quality monitoring organizations, as hazardous smog disrupted the lives of millions of people across the United States.
Gandhari, his daughter had to give outside game Regarding health fears related to bad air, air pollution is constant, but policymakers seem to only notice its most acute moments. This has to change, she said.
„We must not compromise on access to clean air,” Gandhari said.
Many African countries in the Sahara desert continue to struggle with bad winds caused by sandstorms. On Thursday, AccuWeather issued a purple rating for countries from Egypt to Senegal, with hazardous air quality. That’s the same rating given to New York and Washington, D.C. this week
Senegal has been experiencing air insecurity for years. It’s particularly bad in the east of Senegal as desertification – encroachment on the Sahara’s drylands – carries particulates into the region, said Dr Alio Pa, a senior Greenpeace Africa campaigner in the capital, Dakar.
The Great Green Wall, a massive tree-planting effort aimed at slowing desertification, has been underway for years. But the pollution is getting worse due to the number of cars on the road and the burning of low-quality fuel, said Pa.
In the United States, the passage of the Clean Air Act of 1970 eliminated many smoggy cities by setting limits on most sources of air pollution. The landmark regulation led to restrictions on soot, fumes, mercury and other toxic chemicals.
But many developing and newly industrialized countries have weak or poorly enforced environmental laws. They also suffer from increased air pollution for other reasons, including reliance on coal, lower vehicle emission standards, and burning of solid fuels for cooking and heating.
In Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, where power plants and vehicle emissions account for much of the pollution, clear blue skies are often hard to find. It is one of the largest coal producing countries in the world.
In an apartment building in the city’s north, between two busy ports where coal is shipped and stockpiled, residents tried to filter the coal dust with nets where factories burned heavily. It didn’t work.
„My family and I often itch and cough,” said 48-year-old Cesep Subriadi. „So, when a lot of dust enters the apartment, yes, we have to isolate ourselves at home. Because whenever we are out of the house, it feels like a sore throat, sore eyes and itchy skin.
In 2021, an Indonesian court ruled that leaders had ignored citizens’ rights to clean air and ordered it to improve.
China has moved on from Beijing’s reputation for eye-popping pollution that blankets office towers in smog, diverts planes and sends old and young people to hospitals to be put on ventilators. When the air was at its worst, schools that could afford it installed inflatable enclosures on playgrounds with airlock-style revolving doors and household air filters became as ubiquitous as rice cookers.
The key to progress is the closure or relocation of heavy industries from Beijing and nearby areas. Older vehicles were taken off the road and many were replaced by electric vehicles. China is still the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, but almost none is consumed at street level. Average PM 2.5 readings in Beijing in 2013 were 89.5 – above the WHO’s standard of 10 – falling to 58 in 2017 and now down to 30. Only one city in China – Hotan – is in the top 10 cities for the world’s worst air.
Mexico City, surrounded by mountains that trap bad air, was one of the world’s most polluted cities until the government began limiting the number of cars on the streets in the 1990s. Pollution levels have dropped, but the city’s 9 million people – 22 million in the suburbs – rarely see a day when air pollution levels are considered „acceptable”.
Every year, air pollution causes nearly 9,000 deaths in Mexico City. National Institute of Public Health. It is usually worse during the dry winter and early spring months when farmers burn their fields for planting.
Officials haven’t released a full-year air quality report since 2020, but that year — not considered particularly bad for pollution because the pandemic slowed traffic — Mexico City saw unacceptable air quality on 262 days, or 72% of the year.
During the summer months, heavy rains partially clean the city’s air. That’s what brought Veronica Tober and her two children Thursday to a small playground in the Aqueducto neighborhood near one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares.
„We don’t come when we see the pollution is so strong,” Tober said. „You feel it in your eyes, you cry, they itch,” he said, in those days.
Her son was diagnosed with asthma last year and temperature changes make it worse.
„But we have to get out, we can’t be locked in,” Tober said as her children jumped off a slide.

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