NEW DELHI (AP) — An Indian government scientist said Friday that air quality in New Delhi has worsened this week and is now “very poor,” although it should not be compared to China’s capital, which has been reeling under serious air pollution.

Gurfan Baig of the state-run Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology said that levels of tiny particulates known as PM 2.5, which can penetrate deep into the lungs, had reached 250 micrograms per cubic meter in areas in and around the Indian capital.

That is more than 10 times higher than World Health Organization safety levels over a 24-hour period. Although the level is threatening to health, it is still much better than in Beijing recently, where levels of PM 2.5 have been hovering around 500.

Smog envelops the landmark monument India Gate is engulfed in smog in New Delhi, India, Friday, Feb. 1, 2013. Pic: AP.

Fine particles come from combustion in motor vehicles, power plants, wood fires and some industrial processes.

“The air quality in the Indian capital is fluctuating between poor and very poor, and in the Chinese capital between very poor and critical,” Baig told The Associated Press.

D.S. Saha, a senior official at the government-run Central Pollution Control Board, said Beijing, which has many large factories, should not be compared with New Delhi, which has gardens and few major industries.

However, he expressed serious concern at the recent increase in the number of cars and the use of cheap diesel fuel by vehicles.

That concern is increasingly being shared by the Indian public.

“People also face health problems … stress and strain,” said Prem Shankar Pandey, an insurance agent. “They should use their vehicles only when absolutely necessary. Using a two-wheeler vehicle or the metro is a better option.”