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School children wearing pollution masks participate in a march to raise awareness about air pollution levels in New Delhi Nov. 15, 2017. (Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images)

The current air pollution public health emergency in New Delhi and northern India demands a response from the Indian American community. Here are a few suggestions for actions we can take:

Check on family, friends, and colleagues in northern India, to ensure they are protected during this public health emergency. Everyone should use an N99 mask and have access to effective air purification at work, school, and home. Ideally, people should evacuate New Delhi, especially if they have pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular health problems.

Cancel your upcoming travel to India. Not only is this peak tourism season, but it is also peak air pollution season. We need to protect ourselves from getting sick. Moreover, we need to show that our tourism dollars are not worth the risk to our and our family’s health.

Demand the highest air quality standards in and for India. In New Delhi and northern India, going from a “hazardous” to “very poor” Air Quality Index is not good enough. We need to support citizen action groups advocating for truly clean air. We need to help farmers practice sustainable alternatives to crop stubble burning. We need to motivate global leaders in the automotive and manufacturing industries and both the Indian and U.S. governments, to improve fuel quality, emissions standards, and the public health response in India.

The NRI community has incredible expertise, influence, and capacity to act against air pollution and toxicity in India. If we show we care, we can mitigate considerable harm to Indians for generations to come.

Gita Sinha

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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