World

Parents fume as schools reopen despite smog

NEW DELHI: Angry parents accused the Delhi authorities of "playing with children's health" as schools reopened despite a fresh surge in pollution to emergency levels.

Doctors declared a public health emergency last week when choking smog descended on the capital and elsewhere in northern India, prompting the authorities to close schools, ban construction and bar trucks from entering the city.

Yesterday, the authorities reopened schools amid concerns over upcoming exams, angering some parents.

"There has been no let up in the pollution levels. So if the situation is the same, the action should be the same. Why open the schools now?" said All India Parents Association president Ashok Agrawal.

"On one hand, the government is saying there is a health emergency and, on the other, they are playing with children's health. It is so disturbing to see children coughing and struggling to breathe all the way to the school."

Yesterday, levels of PM2.5 topped 500. The smallest and most dangerous particulates penetrate deep into the lungs, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The World Health Organisation says 25 is the most anyone can safely be exposed to over a 24-hour period and levels over 300 are hazardous.

Doctors say children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution, and this can cause long-term damage to their lungs. - AFP

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