Air pollution is contributing to more diseases than use of tobacco and is responsible for every eighth death in India.
In 2017, air pollution took 12.4 lakh lives in the country. Alarmingly, indoor pollution led to 4.8 lakh deaths in the country, with the rest 6.7 lakh deaths due to outdoor air pollution.
Uncontrolled emission by ever-increasing number of vehicles, construction activities, industry and thermal power emissions, non-fossil fuels, waste and agriculture burning, diesel generators, and manual road dust sweeping are triggering health crisis across the country, cited a Government report, which was made public on Thursday.
If the air pollution level was less than the minimal level causing health loss, the average life expectancy in India would have been 1.7 years more, said the report, a joint initiative of the ICMR, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in collaboration with the Union Health Ministry.
Also, more than half of the 12.4 lakh people died before they turned 70, India accounts for 26 per cent of the premature deaths and disease burden globally due to air pollution even though its share in the world population is 18 per cent, the estimates showed.
The research findings, which have been published in The Lancet Planetary Health, said alarmingly around 77 per cent of country’s population is exposed to outdoor air pollution levels above the National Ambient Air Quality Standards safe limit, with the northern States having particularly high levels.
The first comprehensive estimates of death, disease burden and life expectancy reduction associated with air pollution in each State of India were collated under the India State Level Disease Burden Initiative.
According to the report, in 2017, the mean ambient particulate matter PM2.5 annual exposure of 90 ?g/m3 was one of the highest in the world.
As per report, “There is a marked variation between the States, with a 12 times difference for ambient particulate matter pollution and 43 times difference for household air pollution. States in north India had some of the highest levels of both ambient particulate matter and household air pollution, especially Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand; and the States Delhi, Haryana, and Punjab in north India had some of the highest ambient particulate matter pollution exposure in the country.”
PM 2.5 particles are those suspended in air with diameter lesser than 2.5 microns.
Exposure to household air pollution is another cause of concern, with the most affected States being Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Assam. “Exposure to household air pollution due to solid fuel use for cooking is decreasing in India with the increasing provision of clean cooking fuel,” said the study referring to the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana launched in May 2016 under which LPG has been distributed to 50 million poor households in August 2018.
“This effort needs to be sustained to address the still high levels of this exposure in several less developed States.”
ICMR Director General Dr Balram Bhargava said the study provided robust estimates of the health impact of air pollution in every State, which would provide a reference for improving the situation.
“There is increasing political momentum in India to address air pollution,” he said. “The findings reported today systematically document the variations among states, which would serve as a useful guide for making further progress in reducing the adverse impact of air pollution in the country.”
Key findings of the report One out of every eight deaths in India due to air pollution; over half of the 12.4 lakh deaths were in persons younger than 70 years in 2017.
The average life expectancy in India would have been 1.7 years higher if the air pollution level were less than the minimal level causing health loss.
Air pollution now contributes to more disease burden in India than tobacco use.
77% of India’s population is exposed to outdoor air pollution levels above the National Ambient Air Quality Standards safe limit, with the northern states having particularly high levels.
Exposure to household air pollution due to solid fuel use for cooking is decreasing in India with the increasing provision of clean cooking fuel.