New York is choking on smog. But for these cities, it’s just another day

For days, images of New York choking in smoke have stunned the United States, as residents struggle to deal with the unfamiliar challenge of severe air pollution.

The smoke, originating from wildfires in Canada, has prompted authorities to issue air quality alerts down the East Coast and people have again donned N95 face masks, largely abandoned since the pandemic. On social media, people share photos of the “apocalyptic” scene and tips to minimize health risks.

Outside of West Coast states like California that experience annual wildfires, these scenes are rare in the US.

Half the world away, however, fighting smog is nothing new. And the intense air pollution caused by noxious smoke, gases and industrial chemicals that smothers many major cities across Asia for much of the year could become the norm for many more worldwide as the climate crisis worsens.

new york is choking on smog. but for these cities, it’s just another day

New York is choking on smog. But for these cities, it’s just another day

A security guard looks out from the top of the Rockefeller Center in New York as the city is covered with smog on June 7. – Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Last year, six of the world’s 10 most polluted cities were in India, according to monitoring network IQAir. Researchers have estimated that bad air could be reducing the life expectancy of hundreds of millions of Indians by as much as nine years; in 2019, air pollution is thought to have caused nearly 1.6 million deaths in the country.

The capital New Delhi is regularly shrouded in smog, thanks to several factors including vehicle emissions, coal-fired power plants, and the annual practice of burning agricultural fields to prepare land for its next crop.

That means its people are exposed to high levels of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, a widely used indicator of harmful air pollution. The tiny pollutant is highly dangerous; when inhaled, it can travel deep into lung tissue and enter the bloodstream, and has been linked to health problems including asthma and heart disease.

It comes from sources like the combustion of fossil fuels, dust storms – and wildfires, meaning New York is now smothered in the pollutant.

new york is choking on smog. but for these cities, it’s just another day
Heavy smog and low visibility in New Delhi, India, on January 9, 2023. – Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

New York’s PM2.5 levels peaked Wednesday afternoon, measuring 303.3 micrograms per cubic meter. For comparison, World Health Organization guidelines recommends a limit of an average annual level of 5 micrograms per cubic meter; London measured 9.4 micrograms per cubic meter on Wednesday, and Hong Kong measured 21 micrograms per cubic meter, both safely within IQAir’s “good” range.

Many countries in Southeast Asia are also all too familiar with the disruptions to daily life that air pollution can bring, especially during the annual stubble-burning season, when farmers set fire to the straw stubble left after the harvesting of grains.

In 2019, the air got so bad in Malaysia that dozens of students fell ill and experienced vomiting, prompting more than 400 schools to close across the country.

Just a few months later, Malaysia was again covered by a dense haze that came from large-scale forest fires in nearby Indonesia, allegedly lit to clear land for the production of paper, palm oil and other industries.

More recently, Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai took the unenviable title of world’s most polluted city for at least a week straight in April, due to smoke from forest fires and crop burning elsewhere in the region. Massive numbers of people sought medical attention for respiratory issues including asthma and shortness of breath, with one hospital saying wards were so full they had to turn some patients away.

new york is choking on smog. but for these cities, it’s just another day
A woman wearing a protective pollution mask on a street in Beijing on March 20, 2017. – Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

But perhaps the city most notorious for its pollution – and that has most successfully turned things around – is Beijing.

For years, residents in the Chinese capital breathed in acrid air every day. It culminated in the infamous 2013 “air-pocalypse,” when the air quality index hit 755, smashing what was supposed to be the top of the scale at 500, according to the US Embassy in Beijing that kept a daily air quality monitor. That historic high meant the air was beyond hazardous, forcing residents to shut themselves indoors, wear filtered face masks, and crank air purifiers on high.

The event attracted global media attention and forced the issue into China’s mainstream – and soon after, China launched a sweeping anti-pollution campaign, shutting down coal mines and coal plants, setting up nationwide air monitoring stations, and rolling out new regulations.

There are still issues – China has turned back to coal in recent years, rapidly building new power plants even as more and more countries look toward renewable energy – but the improvement in the capital is undeniable. In 2021, Beijing recorded its best monthly air quality since records began in 2013; photos now show mostly blue skies in the city.

It’s an encouraging sign, and evidence that the right policies and investment can help fix air quality. But, scientists and experts warn, there are only further challenges on the horizon – that even cities with normally good air like New York cannot escape.

Human-caused climate change has exacerbated the hot and dry conditions that allow wildfires to ignite and grow. Scientists recently reported that millions of acres scorched by wildfires in the western US and Canada – an area roughly the size of South Carolina – could be traced back to carbon pollution from the world’s largest fossil fuel and cement companies.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pointed to “the devastating impacts of climate change” in a statement on Wednesday, after speaking with US President Joe Biden on how to put out the Quebec fires.

The image of the United Nations building in New York, barely visible through orange smog, “is the perfect image for how world leaders have failed at stopping the climate crisis,” tweeted scientist and climate advocate Lucky Tran on Wednesday, adding in a separate post: “Today New Yorkers and East Coasters are experiencing this impact first hand.”

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at

News Related


Cowboys’ CeeDee Lamb, Demarcus Lawrence Sit Out Practice

FRISCO – If you choose to look at what happened with the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3 – a disturbing 28-16 loss at the Arizona Cardinals – with a wide-angle lens ... Read more »

The third kick of the shutdown ‘mule’: McConnell’s warnings go unheeded

The third kick of the shutdown ‘mule’: McConnell’s warnings go unheeded In October 2013, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) grew so tired of House Republican bids to shutdown the ... Read more »

Google DeepMind Alum Raises $14 Million for AI VC Firm

(Bloomberg) — An alumnus of Google’s artificial intelligence research unit DeepMind has a new venture fund, Mythos Ventures, that will bankroll young AI startups. Vishal Maini, a former DeepMind researcher, ... Read more »

The 5 Most Influential Classic Rock Bands of the 1960s

The 5 Most Influential Classic Rock Bands of the 1960s The ‘60s was the decade that stamped rock music as a cultural force that wasn’t the flash in the pan ... Read more »

Latino leaders dismiss Sen. Menendez’s claim of persecution over ethnicity

Latino leaders dismiss Sen. Menendez’s claim of persecution over ethnicity As the highest-ranking Latino member in Congress called for Sen. Bob Menendez to resign Wednesday, Hispanic leaders offered mixed responses ... Read more »

Top 5 Bluegrass Artists of ALL Time

Bluegrass, with its high-pitched vocals, toe-tapping instrumentals, and alluring acoustic harmonies, emerged from the heart of the Appalachian Mountains in the 1940s. This genre of American roots music has gifted ... Read more »

Honda unveils surprising electric vehicles to compete with Tesla

Japanese automakers, such as Toyota, Nissan and Subaru, are slowly transitioning from internal combustion engine vehicles to all-electric cars. But at the pace they are going, Tesla will have a ... Read more »

Arizona fixes its Zach Davies problem

Arizona fixes its Zach Davies problem When Arizona signed Zach Davies in January, there was not much question about the SnakePit editorial position on the matter. As the poll on ... Read more »

John Cazale Is the Only Actor to Have Made Five Masterpiece Films

John Cazale Is the Only Actor to Have Made Five Masterpiece Films John Cazale had an exceptional career in Hollywood, starring in only five movies between 1972 and 1978, all ... Read more »

1,100 Years Ago, America Experienced an Apocalyptic Disaster

1,100 Years Ago, America Experienced an Apocalyptic Disaster More than a millennia ago, multiple earthquakes, a tsunami, landslides and more tore the Pacific Northwest apart Published |Updated Adam Kovac The ... Read more »

What Causes Brittle Nails and How To Strengthen Them

Henry Arden / Getty Images Medically reviewed by Susan Bard, MD You probably don’t think much about your nails unless you’re choosing what color to paint them, using them to ... Read more »

Google's next 25 years

Google’s next 25 years Google Search turns 25 today. Why it matters: To this point, the company’s overall path to growth has been strikingly straightforward. But its next 25 years ... Read more »

The Bucks Trade for Damian Lillard, Reshaping NBA Title Picture

The Bucks Trade for Damian Lillard, Reshaping NBA Title Picture The Portland Trail Blazers agreed to a trade sending All-Star guard Damian Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, bringing ... Read more »

Starfield: 10 Best Early Spacesuits, Ranked

Starfield offers a variety of spacesuits with different acquisition methods. Some can be purchased, while others require combat or exploration. The Sysdef Assault Spacesuit can be acquired by boarding enemy ... Read more »

David Pollack Names Team That's Looked The Best So Far In College Football

usatsi_19312577 Through the first four weeks of college football, it’s hard to identify which team is truly deserving of the No. 1 spot in the rankings. As it stands right ... Read more »

Winner of last month's $1.6 billion Mega Millions jackpot claims prize in Florida

FILE – Lottery forms are seen, Aug. 7, 2023, at the Presidente Supermarket in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. Officials said on Wednesday, Sept. 27, that the winner of ... Read more »

Roger Waters of Pink Floyd mocked musician's relative who died in Holocaust, report claims

Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, whose concert imagery recalling Nazi Germany generated a rebuke from Biden administration officials in June, is coming under fire again in a new investigation from ... Read more »

British scientists to build the world's most powerful laser

The world’s most powerful laser, capable of producing a beam a million, billion, billion times brighter than the sun, is set to be built by British scientists. It is hoped ... Read more »

Ukraine-Russia war latest: Ukraine closes in on Donetsk airport

Ukrainian military chaplain Ivan prays with infantry soldiers on the frontline near Donetsk on September 9, 2023 – Pierre Crom/Getty Images Europe Ukraine has come within a couple of miles ... Read more »

50 Parting Thoughts From the U.S. Open 2023

Nature abhors a vacuum. So does tennis. This marked the first U.S. Open without Roger Federer and Serena Williams and, great as they were, the sport persisted just fine. Coco ... Read more »

Joakim Noah officiated Derrick Rose’s wedding in touching moment

Call it a Chicago reunion. Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose reunited Thursday for Rose’s wedding, and just like during their respective NBA careers, Noah played an important supporting role — ... Read more »

Elon Musk has his demons. Walter Isaacson does his best to dissect them.

Elon Musk has his demons. Walter Isaacson does his best to dissect them. If you were trying to reverse-engineer from Elon Musk’s life a blueprint for creating the sort of ... Read more »

How to donate to earthquake survivors in Morocco

How to donate to earthquake survivors in Morocco More than 2,100 people have been killed and more than 2,400 injured in the earthquake that struck Morocco on Friday evening. As ... Read more »

Ukraine live briefing: Two foreign aid volunteers dead in Donetsk; German official arrives in Kyiv

The volunteer aid workers killed in Ukraine’s Donetsk region have been identified as 32-year-old Spanish national Emma Igual and Canadian national Anthony “Tonko” Ihnat, according to the Spanish government and ... Read more »

The Promotion Paradox: Are Americans Climbing off the Corporate Ladder?

The Promotion Paradox: Are Americans Climbing off the Corporate Ladder? Promotion Paradox Employers typically issue promotions as a way to recognize employees on consistent hard work and encourage them to ... Read more »

The frontrunners for the 2024 Republican nomination

The frontrunners for the 2024 Republican nomination Former President Donald Trump announced in November that he was seeking the Republican nomination for the presidential elections in 2024. Trump served one ... Read more »

Rugby World Cup 2023: Results, fixtures, schedule in full, how to watch, kick-off times, venues and odds

walesrugbyworldcup11092023a.jpg The Rugby World Cup is in full swing with England making an impressive start to life in Pool D over the weekend. Steve Borthwick’s side looked on course for ... Read more »

Luis Rubiales resigns as Spanish soccer president following unwanted kiss with World Cup winner Jennifer Hermoso

Luis Rubiales on Sunday resigned from his position as president of the Spanish soccer federation following weeks of fierce criticism over his unwanted kiss with Women’s World Cup winner Jennifer ... Read more »

11 Things That The US Should Seriously Adopt From Other Countries, According To A World Traveler

I love the US, but after living abroad in four different countries and traveling to more than 50, I have to say there are certain areas where this great country ... Read more »

U.S. News Releases ‘Best Countries’ Rankings — See What Tops The List

Oleksiy Mark / When you’re planning a trip, it helps to know what you can expect when visiting your destination. Finding that in-depth information, however, can be challenging. Fortunately, ... Read more »
Kênh kiến thức kỹ năng, phát triển bản thân, hướng nghiệp, blog nhân sự