Asia

India's capital grapples with toxic winter air pollution

  • A shopkeeper adjusts the face mask against air pollution of an Indian woman after she purchased it in New Delhi, India, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries, risking serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains and other organs. New Delhi's air pollution is among the world's worst, spikes every winter because of the season's weak winds and countless garbage fires. Officials also said that the high pollution levels were made worse by the ongoing burning of spent crops in agricultural fields in the neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana.(AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

    A shopkeeper adjusts the face mask against air pollution of an Indian woman after she purchased it in New Delhi, India, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries, risking serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains and other organs. New Delhi's air pollution is among the world's worst, spikes every winter because of the season's weak winds and countless garbage fires. Officials also said that the high pollution levels were made worse by the ongoing burning of spent crops in agricultural fields in the neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana.(AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)  (The Associated Press)

  • Foreigners walk at a market place wearing face masks against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries, risking serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains and other organs. New Delhi's air pollution is among the world's worst, spikes every winter because of the season's weak winds and countless garbage fires. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

    Foreigners walk at a market place wearing face masks against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries, risking serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains and other organs. New Delhi's air pollution is among the world's worst, spikes every winter because of the season's weak winds and countless garbage fires. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)  (The Associated Press)

  • An Indian woman talks to another wearing a face mask against air pollution at a shop in New Delhi, India, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries, risking serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains and other organs. New Delhi's air pollution is among the world's worst, spikes every winter because of the season's weak winds and countless garbage fires. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

    An Indian woman talks to another wearing a face mask against air pollution at a shop in New Delhi, India, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries, risking serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains and other organs. New Delhi's air pollution is among the world's worst, spikes every winter because of the season's weak winds and countless garbage fires. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)  (The Associated Press)

Even for a city considered one of the world's dirtiest, the Indian capital hit a new low this week.

Air so dirty you can taste and smell it; a gray haze that makes a gentle stroll a serious health hazard.

According to one advocacy group, government data shows that the smog that enveloped the city midweek was the worst in the last 17 years. The concentration of PM2.5, tiny particulate pollution that can clog lungs, averaged close to 700 micrograms per cubic meter. That's 12 times the government norm and a whopping 70 times the WHO standards.

Yet many of the problems that make Delhi's air toxic continue. People set off massive amounts of festival fireworks, piles of garbage burn, and farmers in bordering regions continue to burn crop waste.