By Joanna Slater and Niha Masih

NEW DELHI — A grayish haze filled the park as the yoga practitioners gathered for their daily exercise early Thursday morning. Anywhere else the haze might have been fog or mist, but Delhiites know better: For the second time in as many weeks, the smog was so severe that the city took the emergency step of closing schools.

But the yoga devotees saw no reason to stay home — and no reason to wear anti-pollution masks. “I’ll look like a fool if I wear a mask,” said R.L. Khattar, ­a ­92-year-old resident of a nearby ­lower-income neighborhood, prompting laughter from the others. Delhi’s bad air had given him a recurring cough and feelings of breathlessness. But a mask makes Khattar feel “claustrophobic.”

Standing nearby, Prem Gupta, 52, concurred. No one in his family wears a mask, including his children. “Pollution won’t stop if you wear a mask, so what’s the point?” he asked.

Despite living with some of the world’s worst air, very few residents of India’s capital wear anti-pollution masks, which can filter the vast majority of harmful particles if worn correctly. The paucity of such masks stands in stark contrast to cities such as Beijing, another megacity known for acute smog, where it is not unusual to see people wearing them.

But Delhi’s doubts about masks may be fading.

Researchers at the University of Chicago conducted surveys around mask-wearing behavior among 3,500 of Delhi’s poorest residents. They found that the awareness of the harm pollution causes is still relatively low and that social norms may discourage people from wearing masks.

Even if local and federal authorities take strong actions to combat Delhi’s bad air, it “would take a number of years for pollution to come down,” said Kenneth Lee, one of the researchers. “In the meantime, defense is sort of important.”

Continue reading at the Washington Post…

 

 

Areas of Focus: Environment
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Environment
Producing and using energy damages people’s health and the environment. EPIC research is quantifying the social costs of energy choices and uncovering policies that help protect health while facilitating growth.
Air Pollution
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Air Pollution
Air pollution from fossil fuel combustion poses a grave threat to human health worldwide. EPIC research is using real-world data to calculate the effects of air pollution on human health...
EPIC-India
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EPIC-India
As the world’s fastest-growing carbon emitter and second most-polluted country, India is central to the global energy challenge. EPIC’s robust team in India works hand-in-hand with government leaders to implement...