In the News

April 12, 2022

In ‘World’s Most Polluted City’, Indian Workers Unaware of Toxic Air

Data from the AQLI finds air pollution can reduce the life expectancy of 40% of Indians by more than 9 years.
Annie Banerji

Indian traffic policeman Surendar Singh waved away clouds of dust and smoke, and unbuttoned his shirt to show a small box bulging out of his chest.

“It literally keeps me alive,” said Singh, 48, as he showed the implanted cardiac defibrillator device that detects when his heart rhythm goes dangerously awry and delivers a shock to restore it to normal.

“It’s the price you pay for working in this madness,” he said, gesturing to a clogged intersection in the northern city of Bhiwadi, found to be the most polluted in the world.

Bhiwadi – an industrial hub – had the worst air quality of 6,475 cities surveyed for a report here published by Swiss air quality technology company IQAir last month.

The city’s air carries more than 20 times the World Health Organization’s recommended here maximum level of tiny airborne particles known as PM 2.5, which can penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, it found.

Doctors say long-term exposure to polluted air can cause health problems from asthma and lung cancer to reduced blood oxygen levels that can cause irregular heartbeats that manifest in chest pain, tightness, or palpitations.


India is home to 63 of the 100 most polluted cities in the world, according to IQAir.

A two-hour drive to Bhiwadi from New Delhi – which was ranked the most polluted capital for the fourth time in a row – provides a snapshot of India’s air quality woes.

Hundreds of brick kilns billow thick smoke, road builders burn tar, farmers thresh grain and kick up clouds of chaff, residents set garbage piles on fire, and rumbling trucks leave a haze of dust in their wake.

Such a cocktail of pollutants is likely to reduce the life expectancy of about 40% of Indians by more than nine years, according to a report here published by U.S. research group the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).

“It’s a slow poison that corrodes your body over years,” said Sunil Dahiya, analyst at the Delhi-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).

Continue Reading at Thomson Reuters Foundation…