Air

Dirty air dooms Indians to early death

New analysis of global burden of diseases shows very high rate of increase in early deaths from particulate and ozone pollution. Over a quarter of global deaths from air pollution occurs in India.

 
By Anumita Roychowdhury
Last Updated: Thursday 16 February 2017
Credit: Vikas Chaudhury
Credit: Vikas Chaudhury Credit: Vikas Chaudhury

The new analysis of global burden of disease (GBD) estimates released by the US-based Health Effect Institute (HEI) has exposed stunning results. Globally, air pollution is estimated to cause more than 4.2 million early deaths—of these, 1.1 million deaths occur in India alone. This is more than a quarter of the global deaths. India ranks second in PM2.5-related deaths in the world, and nearly equals China, which scores the highest number of early deaths due to PM2.5. Worse, India now tops the dubious list of highest number of early deaths due to ozone pollution.

The rate of increase in early deaths in India is quite scary. While early deaths related to PM2.5 in China have increased by 17.22 per cent since 1990, in India these have increased by 48 per cent. Similarly, while early deaths due to ozone in China have stabilised since 1990, in India these have jumped by 148 per cent. This demands urgent intervention.

With the release of State of Global Air 2017 by the HEI, the GBD estimates have now become annual. “We are seeing increasing air pollution problems worldwide and the new report explains why air pollution is a major contributor to early death. We have seen progress in some parts of the world—but serious challenges remain,” said Dan Greenbaum, president HEI, the global research institute that designed and implemented the study.

Air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death worldwide; as many as 92 per cent of the world’s population lives in areas with unhealthy air. This new report—State of Global Air 2017 by HEI—is a deeper analysis of the earlier GBD estimates of 2015 and looks at the long-term trends from 1990 through 2015.

The HEI has built on the GBD project of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), involving more than 2,000 researchers who enumerate and track death and disability and the influence of behavioral, dietary and environmental risk factors for more than 300 diseases and injuries, by age and sex, from 1990 to the present, in 195 different countries and territories. “The new report is a deeper analysis extracted from the most recent GBD, (2015, published last year). It allows one to look at long-term trends from 1990 through 2015,” explains Robert O Keefe, vice-president, HEI.

India cannot afford to remain complacent or in denial any more. With so many people dying early and falling ill and losing productive years due to particulate and ozone pollution, it is a state of health emergency. This demands nation-wide intervention to ensure stringent mitigation and a roadmap to meet clean air standards. Very recently, India’s Environment Minister was on a denial mode claiming “there is no conclusive data to establish direct correlationship of death exclusively with air pollution”. The new GBD data calls for even more urgent and decisive interventions.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.