Dirty air killed 1.2m Indians in 2017 - GulfToday

Dirty air killed 1.2m Indians in 2017


A family rides a scooter, wearing pollution masks, in New Delhi. File / Associated Press

Resmi Sivaram

NEW DELHI: Air pollution killed 1.2 million people in India in 2017, a study conducted by an American health institute has revealed.

China equals India in the count. The global toll is five million, and the two countries together adds up to half of it.

The Boston-based Health Effects Institute (HEI) in its State Of Global Air report 2019 says long-term exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution has caused the deaths and is the third major cause of deaths in India, ranking just above smoking. The report asserts that more people globally die from air pollution related disease than from road traffic injuries or malaria. “Each year, more people die from air pollution-related disease than from road traffic injuries or malaria.” Air pollution collectively reduced life expectancy by an year and 8 months on average worldwide.

“This means a child born today will die 20 months sooner, on average, than would be expected in the absence of air pollution,” the report says.

“When considered separately, exposure to ambient PM2.5 is responsible for just over 1 year, household air pollution is responsible for almost 9 months, and ozone is responsible for less than 1 month of life span lost,” it says.

Stroke, diabetes, heart attack, lung cancer, and chronic lung disease contributed to five million deaths in 2017. Air pollution lowers insulin sensitivity, contributing to diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes contributed by exposure to fine particulate pollution is the highest in India.

Exposure to PM2.5 was the third leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes deaths and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), after high blood sugar and high body mass index. “While rates of diabetes have risen across all countries, the largest burdens are found in China and India, reflecting in part their large populations,” the report states.

India also tops a list of 13 countries, with populations over 50 million, in which more than 10 per cent of the population was exposed to household air pollution by use of solid fuels. About 60 per cent of India’s population was exposed to household pollution, followed by China with 32 per cent. The report cites some action on India’s part too. Robert O’Keefe, vice president, Health Effects Institute, Boston, says: “India has initiated major steps to address pollution sources: the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Household LPG programme, accelerated Bharat Stage VI vehicle standards, and the new National Clean Air Programme.

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