Indian farmers often set fire to fields to clear them for planting. According to Indian agricultural practice, preparing for planting with fire has the benefit of clearing out some pests that eat crops and turning crop residues from the previous season into fertilizing ash. In late November, hundreds of fires continue to burn in northwestern India, covering the region with a gray haze. Although the smoke appeared to originate primarily from the agricultural fires, other factors such as urban and industrial smog may have contributed.
According to news reports, thick smog hovered over Delhi for several days in early November. Smoke can harm human health, aggravating heart and lung disease. Humans evolved in the presence of fire and healthy young adults can generally withstand vegetation smoke. But older adults, children, and people with chronic health conditions are at risk. The smoke may include thousands of compounds, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. These components have the potential to affect human health, but exactly how different types of smoke affect people is not yet fully understood.
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