Smog is a term that becomes the buzzword in North India during winters. Deteriorating air quality in Delhi and the National Capital Region during winters is directly attributed to smog. Coined by combining smoke and fog, smog is an air pollutant with extremely harmful effect on all forms of life. Smog not only has smoke, fog, dust, Particulate Matters (PM) 10 and 2.5 but also includes other pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, ozone, industrial emissions, vehicular emissions, forest and agricultural fires etc. PM 10 and PM 2.5 are extremely hazardous and they can easily enter the human lung leading to severe respiratory complications.
While there are several reasons for the formation of smog, the one in North India during winter is primarily caused by farmers in Haryana an Punjab burning stubble in their fields. It is usually compounded by vehicular and industrial emissions along with smoke and pollutants generated by bursting of crackers during Diwali. Smog's formation is depended on several factors including temperature, sunshine and wind condition.
Dr. Henry Antoine Des Voeux is often credited with inventing the term smog in his 1905 paper, "Fog and Smoke" which he had prepared for a meeting of the Public Health Congress. But a Los Angeles Times article published in January 19, 1893 claimed that the term was first used by "a witty English writer."
Those suffering from asthma, bronchitis, other respiratory ailments and cardiac problems are the worst affected by smog with infants, children and old people being in the highest risk category. The common issues that people face during smog are eye and throat irritation, wheezing, coughing, dryness of protective membranes of your nose and throat along with headaches. Prolonged exposure to smog also leads to inflamed lungs which can further result in blood clots and heart attack or stroke. Smog is one of the reasons behind lung cancer too and also has an adverse effect on our body's resistance leading to people falling ill frequently. Smog also blocks the sun resulting decreased UV radiation which in turn affects our body's ability to synthesise Vitamin D. Low-visibility in smog also leads to road accidents.
Extra care must be taken to protect the eyes and washing them clean at a regular interval is advised. Experts often compare the smog situation in the NCR to a ‘gas chamber’ and warn people from venturing out. Schools are routinely closed in the region to protect children from smog's harmful effects. It also hits the economy as flights, trains and road traffic are affected.