(This story was first published on 21 October, 2020 and is being republished to mark Pollution Control Day.)
According to a disturbing new report, 21 percent of all neonatal deaths in India are caused by air pollution. 116,000 infants die in India in the first month alone, according to a global comprehensive analysis of the impact of air pollution on newborns.
The highest health risk in India is now caused by air pollution, with 1.67 million deaths in 2019 from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung disease and neonatal diseases attributed to bad air.
According to The State of Global Air 2020 study published in Health Effects Institute, half of these infant deaths were caused by outdoor air pollution.
South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal were among the top 10 countries with highest PM 2.5 levels in 2019. Shift to solid fuels has helped, with 50 million less people exposed to household air pollution.
At a time the world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, this report is particularly alarming. While direct links between air pollution and COVID-19 are still being explored, with air pollution being linked to increased heart disease, lung disorders, stroke etc, the concerns are serious. With winter months setting in, combined with rising air pollution levels, serious action needs to be taken to tackle bad air.
Infants and Air Pollution
The report indicates that nearly 21% of neonatal deaths from all causes are attributable to ambient and household air pollution.
"An infant’s health is critical to the future of every society, and this newest evidence suggests an especially high risk for infants born in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dan Greenbaum, President of HEI. “Although there has been slow and steady reduction in household reliance on poor-quality fuels, the air pollution from these fuels continues to be a key factor in the deaths of these youngest infants,” he added.
Air Pollution and South Asia
In important findings, all ages mortality due to air pollution worldwide stood at 6.7 million, of which 2.1 million deaths were in South Asia. Of these, 173,500 deaths occurred in Bangladesh, 1.67 million in India, 235,700 in Pakistan, and 42,100 in Nepal.
- Global: 20 percent of all neonatal deaths (that's 476,000; 64% attributable to household air pollution)
- Bangladesh: 20 percent of all neonatal deaths (10,500; 62% attributable to household air pollution)
- India: 21 percent of all neonatal deaths (116,000; 46% attributable to household air pollution)
- Pakistan: 20 percent of all neonatal deaths (56,500; 56% attributable to household air pollution)
- Nepal: 22 percent of all neonatal deaths (2,550; 60% attributable to household air pollution)
AIR POLLUTION VS OTHER RISK FACTORS:
- Bangladesh – 2nd leading risk factor after high blood pressure
- India – 1st leading risk factor followed by high blood pressure
- Pakistan – 2nd leading risk factor after malnutrition
- Nepal – 1st leading risk factor followed by smoking
(The article was first published in FIT and has been republished with permission.)
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