Air Pollution in India: 16.7 lakh people died in 2019

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Air pollution contributed to the death of 16.7 lakh people in India in 2019, with over a lakh of them less than a month old, a new global study by a US-based NGO has revealed.

According to the State of Global Air, 2020, a report on global exposure to air pollution, released by Health Effects Institute (HEI) on Wednesday, air pollution is the biggest health risk in India.

“Outdoor and household particulate matter pollution contributed to the death of more than 1,16,000 Indian infants in their first month of life in 2019. More than half of these deaths were associated with outdoor PM2.5 and others were linked to the use of solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking.

“Long-term exposure to outdoor and household air pollution contributed to over 1.67 million annual deaths from stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung diseases, and neonatal diseases, in India in 2019,” the report said.

The report also said there is clear evidence linking air pollution and increased heart and lung disease, creating a growing concern that exposures to high levels of air pollution could exacerbate the effects of COVID-19.

Dan Greenbaum, the president of HEI, said an infant’s health is critical to the future of every society and this newest evidence suggests an especially high risk for infants born in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

“Although there has been a slow and steady reduction in household reliance on poor-quality fuels, air pollution from these fuels continues to be a key factor in the deaths of these youngest infants,” he said.

Infants in the first month of life are already at a vulnerable stage. But a growing body of scientific evidence from multiple countries, including recent ICMR-supported studies in India, indicates that particulate air pollution exposure during pregnancy is linked to low birth weight and pre-term birth, the report said. The new analysis reported in the State of Global Air this year estimates that nearly 21 per cent of neonatal deaths from all causes are attributable to ambient and household air pollution.