"Fighting to breathe in the world's most polluted city" PBS NewsHour 2/20/2017
SUMMARY: Delhi now outranks Beijing as the world's most polluted city. Carbon dioxide, ozone and fine carbon particles get trapped over India's capital, mostly due to dirty fuels, causing long-term health consequences such as lung and heart disease. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports on some efforts to lessen the environmental toll on residents.
JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour): India's capital, Delhi, now outranks Beijing as the world's most polluted large metropolis. And it's taking a toll on its residents' health.
But, as special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports, there are efforts under way to make the city's air less toxic.
It's part of his ongoing series Agents for Change.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO (NewsHour): He murmurs and he gasps, waiting for a spot to free up, for a chance to just breathe.
As nebulizer treatments open up the lungs of a handful of patients, dozens more await their turn at the chest clinic in a Delhi government hospital.
This is the scene outside of the doctor's office. Clinic hours are 9:00 in the morning until 1:00. And on a typical day, the doctor says he sees about 120 patients who've been here before and 30 brand-new ones.
Three to four patients are seen at the same time, in the same room, by Dr. Raj Kumar and his team of junior doctors and residents. The most common complaint? Simply change of season, the winter, which brings dust and tiny carbon particulates into the environment
DR. RAJ KUMAR, India: When there is a change in environment or increase in the particulate matter and everything, these asthmatic and COPD patients do get exacerbation of their symptoms.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: They get exacerbation of their symptoms?
DR. RAJ KUMAR: Yes.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Dr. Kumar can do little more than check on their medications and advise patients to avoid some of the most polluted outdoor air on the planet.
Weather and wind patterns are blamed for trapping pollutants over India's capital, carbon dioxide, ozone and fine carbon particles. Dirty fuels are the culprit from several sources. Automobiles are the major one. On average, 1,400 new vehicles are added to Delhi's streets every day, most now burning a highly polluting diesel long outlawed in Europe and the United States.
By 2021, diesel fuel here will meet European standards. The government has also promised to shut down old coal-fired plants and restrict new ones. And wood- and coal-burning brick kilns has been moved farther away from the city.
But the pollution continues. To get an idea of how polluted the air is, we went to one of the cleanest places in Delhi, the American Embassy School. It serves the children of American and other expats and diplomats. Many don face masks, but only until they're inside, says the director, Ellen Stern.
ELLEN STERN, Director, American Embassy School: We have an air system that goes all the way through the school. We now have four different kinds of filters on it that filter out various kinds of things.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Barun Aggarwal showed me the elaborate system his company, BreatheEasy, has set up in the school, pulling out the first layer of filter, thickly coated with a grimy soot.
So, if you were to walk outside today, this is what is coming into your lungs?
BARUN AGGARWAL, BreatheEasy: Absolutely.
Most of the black carbon actually passes through a filter like this. This is mostly dust. And the black carbon will get trapped in the finer particle filters.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So, how old is this accumulation?
BARUN AGGARWAL: Less than six days.