India beats China on one national measure at least: Its air has rapidly become more unbreathable. Urgent action is needed to cleanse Indian skies.
This week, air pollution in New Delhi has been truly off the charts: Tiny particulates, which are especially deadly, topped 999 micrograms per cubic meter -- 40 times what is considered safe and beyond what the scale was designed to measure. While air quality tends to worsen around this time of year as millions of Indians light firecrackers to celebrate the Diwali festival, the problem isn’t limited by season or geography. India has 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Every year, more than half a million people are estimated to die prematurely because of air pollution.