Forget “Snow Days”, We Have “No Activity Days” Due to Air Quality

Having grown up in the very northern part of Utah, I was always a little happy when I would wake up on a school morning and my mother would announce that it was a “snow day”, meaning school had been canceled due to the heavy snowfall.  This meant the freedom to enjoy the day how I wished which usually included some type of fun in the new snow.  Well, my children have never experienced a “snow day” since they have lived in California their entire life, but now that they are in New Delhi, they get to experience “no activity days.”. And let me just say that “no activity days” hold zero magic in them like those “snow days.”


This is a view out of our front window on a day with the heavy polluted air.  The plants are working extra hard and one can see the dirt from the air on all the trees and shrubs as you drive around.   

Despite New Delhi being one of the greenest capitols in the world, having a metro system that transports thousands of people each day and government buses that run on natural gas, New Delhi is one of the most polluted cities to live in the world.  The New York Times recently wrote an article about how China’s bad air would be a step up for New Delhi.  I have not lived in China, but I can attest to the very poor air quality in New Delhi.  It is a major reason why many people choose to leave India.  One of Hailey’s teachers as well as Conner’s principal have both decided to leave after this year based purely on the air quality of New Delhi.  They have both expressed that they would stay here a long time for the school, but the pollution is what is driving them away after a few years of living here.

There is an Air Quality Index (AQI) that establishes guidelines on Hazardous to Healthy Air Quality.  According to the AQI, 0-50 reading is Healthy, 51-100 is Moderate, 101-200 is Unhealthy, 200-300 is Harmful and anything greater than 300 is Hazardous.  Part of the measure of air quality is Particulate Matters (PM), especially PM with diameter of 2.5 micrometers.  Particulate Matters are materials suspended in the air in the form of minute solid particles or liquid droplets and are considered atmosphere pollutants.  Some PM originates naturally from dust storms, living vegetation and forest fires.  PM also originates from burning of fossil fuels in  vehicles, power plants, road dust, etc.  I would like to add that here in New Delhi, PM is definitely created by road side fires burning anything the person can find to stay warm or cook their nightly meal.

It was around the end of October, beginning of November that we started to experience the very poor air quality here.  We went from having just 2 air purifiers in our home to purchasing one for all rooms in our home.  One would wake up and before looking outside at the air, you could just sense it in the air of your home.  At about that same time I came down with a cold and the cough that accompanied it did not entirely leave until I left Delhi for a few weeks at the holidays.  Our two youngest children had asthma as young children and I have been watching to see if they would experience problems, but fortunately we have not had any problems yet and some of that may be thanks to the “no activity days” at school.


One of the many air purifiers in our home  I have discussed and heard discussed from many different people whether they work or not.  The insulation in the homes here is very poor leading some people to believe purifiers don’t help.  I know they don’t take care of all the pollution inside our home, but I do believe they make a difference.

By 8:00 a.m. each school morning, if the readings are above a certain level (the harmful and hazardous levels), we receive an email from the Director of the School informing us that there will be no cardio activity that day.  This means that if the student has PE, they will do something other than cardio activity.  For after-school sports, they are canceled on that day.  We have had several days over the past few months where the air quality was determined a “no activity day.”. I have not been keeping track of them, but according to the New York Times Article, only once in three weeks at the beginning of the year did Delhi’s peak readings fall below 300.  Our most recent day of “no activity” was January 17th, the scheduled Middle School Open Gym night at the school.  The declaration of the “no activity” day disappointed many as it meant the night activities had to be postponed as well.  The papers will often post articles and pictures of the air in China with everyone wearing masks, but the worse air is indeed India, not China according to recent findings and to be honest, it is rare to see anyone wearing a breathing mask and see much written about it in the papers expressing concern.


Air masks such as this one are rarely seen here but I have talked with different people who will use them during their exercise on peak days. 

The Air Quality has definitely affected us here.  Once the heat finally subsided, the poor air started which really limits wanting to be outdoors.  Conner had switched gears from wanting the In-n-Out hamburger to wanting to breathe clean air over the holidays.  As we departed from our layover in London, he even remarked, “well, my last bit of fresh air to breathe.”. I returned from the states with some air masks determined to try to use them when I was exercising in our gym in our basement.  It was so awkward and uncomfortable to run on the treadmill with it on, that it didn’t last but a few minutes.  We just continue to run our many air purifiers and limit outdoor activities.  We have had a couple of good days here and I am starting to actually believe that February might be the month to be in India.  I will keep you posted!





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