More than 92 percent of Indians live in areas where air quality and pollution levels are below the World Health Organisation's (WHO) lowest air quality standards, according to a new report from the Center for Science and Environment.
Deaths tied to ambient PM2.5 levels in 2019 were at 9,79,900, which is 3.5 times the deaths from 1990 which were at 2,79,500.
PM2.5 refers to fine particle matter less than 2.5 microns in size which can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause nose, eye, and lung irritation in the short term. In the long term it can lead to increased cardiovascular and respiratory risks.
The report, presented by Union Minister for Environment Bhupendra Yadav, adds that 6.67 million people died of air pollution and one in every four of these pollution-related deaths in 2019, was from India.
WHO lowered the the safe annual average PM2.5 exposure level from 10 micrograms per cubic metre to 5 mg per cubic metre in 2021, putting most of the world's population in areas where this quality isn't met.
The WHO also reduced its recommended safe exposure levels of other common air pollutants because of increasing evidence that air pollution had far greater health impacts than earlier known.
Air quality levels in India have been in a state of steady decline over the past two decades.
A Greenpeace study found the average concentration of PM2.5 to be nearly 17 times higher than the recommended in Delhi, eight times higher than recommended in Mumbai, nine times higher in Kolkata and five times higher in Chennai.
Only 25 countries in the world currently meet the WHO's prior 10 mg/cu m level. India's PM 2.5 ocncentration rests at around 80 mg/cu m.