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1.7 million deaths in India were attributable to air pollution in 2019, says study

23rd December, 2020 Environment

Context: In India, 1.7 million deaths were attributable to air pollution in 2019, which was 18% of the total deaths in the country.

  • Economic loss due to the lost output from premature deaths and morbidity from air pollution was 1.4% of the GDP in India during this time, which is equivalent to ₹260,000 crore ($36.8 billion).
  • This is as per a scientific paper titled ‘Health and economic impact of air pollution in the States of India: The Global Burden of Disease Study 2019’.
  • The study, published in the The Lancet Planetary Health, has been funded by the UN Environment Programme, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
  • It documents the trends in health loss due to air pollution and its economic impact in every State of India using the latest improved methods and data.
  • The data released further indicates that household air pollution is decreasing in India, resulting in 64% reduction in the death rate attributable to it from 1990 to 2019, whereas the death rate from outdoor ambient air pollution increased during this period by 115%.
  • The economic loss due to air pollution as a percentage of the state GDP was higher in the northern and central India states, with the highest in Uttar Pradesh (2.2% of GDP) and Bihar (2% of GDP).
  • India would benefit from investing further in state-specific air pollution control strategies, as this will facilitate its aspiration of reaching a US$5 trillion economy by 2024.
  • The findings show that while 40% of the disease burden due to air pollution is from lung diseases, the remaining 60% is from ischemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and neonatal deaths related to pre-term birth, highlighting the broad-ranging impact of air pollution on human health.

Way ahead:                   

  • India has many ongoing major initiatives to reduce air pollution.
  • Air pollution and its impact is not a matter for the health sector alone, and the solutions lie in a multi-sectoral approach, with a common commitment to reducing exposure to toxic air, which is impacting the health and productivity of Indians.
  • The health and economic impact of air pollution is highest in the less developed States of India, an inequity that should be addressed