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Toxic Air in India Worse Than Singapore Haze a Test for Modi

  • Smog from illegal farm fires shows task of enforcing curbs
  • Small-particle pollution 27 times safe level in Indian capital
Coal-fired power plant in Badarpur, Delhi. Photographer: Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg

Coal-fired power plant in Badarpur, Delhi. Photographer: Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg

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The air pollution meter buzzed and spat out a stunning result: levels of PM2.5 -- tiny, toxic particles that lead to respiratory diseases -- were 27 times the safe limit near the Indian parliament in New Delhi on Wednesday morning.

The reading of 675 micrograms per cubic meter of air recorded by Bloomberg News exceeded the highest measured this year in Singapore, where PM2.5 levels touched 471 in October as Indonesian plantation fires led to some of the murkiest haze the city state has seen.