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NEW DELHI: Pollution in the Indian capital on Tuesday hit a dangerous level at which everyone is at risk and doctors called for the city’s half marathon this month to be canceled.

The Indian Medical Association urged the city’s biggest running race, due on Nov. 19, to be called off to protect runners and volunteers from exposure to high levels of deadly particulate matter that lodge deep in the lungs.

It said the air quality is particularly poor early in the day when the race will be run.
On Tuesday, the air quality index, which measures the concentration of poisonous particulate matter in the air, hit the “severe” level of 451 on a scale where the maximum reading is 500 and where anything above 100 is considered unhealthy by the Central Pollution Control Board.

At the severe level, even healthy people will be affected while those who have existing diseases will be severely impacted, it said.

A thick fog that hung over the sprawling city worsened conditions. Residents complained of eyes smarting and irritation in the throat.

In some parts of Delhi, the air quality was so poor that it was beyond the maximum level, according to the US embassy’s real-time air quality index. It stood at 999 for RK Puram area beyond which no readings are available.

That level is equal to smoking 50 cigarettes a day, Dr. Arvind Kumar, chairman for chest surgery at Sir Ganga Ram hospital, said.

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