India loses $150 billion a year due to air pollution

New report pegs economic cost of such pollution at $8 bln / day

Last Updated: Friday 14 February 2020

Pollution from burning fossil fuel such as coal, oil and gas, etc led to the premature death of 4.5 million people across the world every year, according to a new report.

The report Toxic air: The Price of Fossil Fuels, by non-profit Greenpeace and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air put the economic cost of such pollution at $8 billion per day. That’s 3.3 per cent of the global gross domestic product.

The report was based on research that studied datasets for surface-level concentrations of three main pollutants and calculated health and cost impacts for 2018.

The most economic cost due to such pollution was for the United States, which spent $900 billion a year to cover its costs, China ($600 billion) and India ($150 billion).

For low income countries like India, air pollution was also a serious threat to children. According to the recent report, around 40,000 children died before their fifth birthday due to exposure to particulate matter (PM) 2.5. India suffered an annual loss of Rs 10.7 crore due to the one million deaths and 980,000 preterm births.

Toxic air caused more chronic and acute illnesses and contributed to millions of hospital visits. It led to nearly half a billion workday absences a year, the report estimated. There were relatively more absences due to PM 2.than other pollutants such as ozone and nitrogen dioxide.

Exposure to PM 2.5 had serious short- and long-term health effects, including:

  • Ischaemic heart disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Lung cancer
  • Lower respiratory infections

The report pointed out that such effects of air pollution can be countered by stopping the use of fossil fuels such as petrol, diesel and gas for transportation. Instead, there should be an efficient public transport system based on renewable energy sources.  

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