Breathing in Delhi Air Equivalent to Smoking 44 Cigarettes a Day

Imagine a world where the air is so clogged with pollution that you can’t see where you’re driving, that is so bad planes can’t fly and trains can’t run. If that kind of world isn’t within your scope of imagination, then a visit to New Delhi may be in order — if you can get there. According to CNN Health, New Delhi is so polluted that this week city officials had to cancel schools and transportation venues, including planes and trains. Even private car use will be partially banned by next week. The pollution is equivalent to smoking 44 cigarettes a day, officials said.

Pollution has been named the "largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today" by a collaboration of more than 40 researchers looking at data from 130 countries. Nine million premature deaths were caused by pollution in 2015, which is 16 percent of deaths worldwide, and the majority of deaths — 6.5 million — were caused by airborne contaminants. Ninety-two percent of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.

And while industry and vehicular pollution contributes to much of these countries’ problems, airborne pollution includes particulate matter from agriculture and wood-burning stoves and fireplaces — no matter where you live. At home, inside air can pollute your lungs as well. In fact, indoor air in industrialized countries is often more polluted than what’s outside.

Indoor air pollution can increase wheezing, cause headaches, disorientation and certain cancers, and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Health risks are linked to new carpet installation, remodeling, air fresheners and scented candles, household cleaners, poorly maintained fuel-burning appliances and more. Making several small changes to your everyday routine, such as opening windows, decorating with plants, and running exhaust fans, can make a significant difference in the quality of the air you breathe.