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A schoolboy covers his face with a handkerchief as he waits for a bus on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, on Nov. 8. Photo by Saumya Khandelwal/Reuters

The air quality is so bad in Delhi that the city is closing schools

The air pollution has gotten so bad in Delhi, India, that authorities have advised people with breathing problems to stay inside and closed 6,000 schools for most of the week.

Over the last 48 hours, pollution readings in the city of 19 million have hovered around or exceeded 500 on the city’s air quality index — that’s 12 times the health limit set by the World Health Organization. (You can monitor Delhi’s air quality in real-time here.)

“The air quality in Delhi is deteriorating. We cannot compromise with the health of children at this stage,” Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said, according to a Reuters report.

Pollution readings in Delhi hit the most severe level on the government’s air quality index this week. Photo by Saumya Khandelwal/Reuters

Pollution readings in Delhi hit the most severe level on the government’s air quality index this week. Photo by Saumya Khandelwal/Reuters

The thick smog in Delhi comes from a combination of factors, including farmers burning crop debris in nearby fields, vehicle emissions, and the burning of coal and trash.

Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, tweeted that during this time of year, Delhi “becomes a gas chamber”:

The Indian Medical Association is urging the Delhi government to declare a public health emergency and take immediate action, such as temporarily banning cars, to address the problem.

In February, PBS NewsHour special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reported on efforts to address the health impacts of India’s polluted air. Watch that report here:

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