1.7 million deaths in India were attributable to air pollution in 2019, which was 18% of the total deaths in the country, a scientific paper published on the health and economic impact of air pollution has said.
Air pollution is a major cause of premature death and disease, and is the largest environmental health threat globally. Studies from India have shown that short-term and long-term exposure are associated with disease burden and mortality, the authors note.
The India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative published the paper in Lancet Planetary Health, documenting the trends in health loss due to air pollution and its economic impact in every state of India using the latest methods and data.
Some Key Findings
The study found that household air pollution is decreasing in India, resulting in 64% reduction in the death rate attributable to it from 1990 to 2019, whereas the death rate from outdoor particulate air pollution has increased during this period by 115%.
Household air pollution is caused by unclean solid fuels for cooking. Outdoor particulate air pollution is caused by residential and commercial biomass burning, windblown mineral dust, coal burning for energy generation, industrial emissions, agricultural stubble burning, waste burning, construction activities, brick kilns, transport vehicles, and diesel generators.
Further effort is needed in India to reduce these emissions.
- In 2019, 0·98 million deaths were attributable to ambient particulate matter pollution, 0·61 million to household air pollution, and 0·17 million to ambient ozone pollution.
- 11.5% of the total disease burden (DALYs) in India in 2019 was attributable to air pollution, the majority of which were due to ambient particulate matter pollution and household air pollution.
- While 40% of the disease burden due to air pollution is from lung diseases, the remaining 60% is from ischemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and neonatal deaths related to preterm birth, highlighting the broad ranging impact of air pollution on human health.
- The economic loss due to lost productivity from deaths and morbidity due to air pollution in India is 1.4% of the GDP which amounts to Rs 260,000 crore.
The central and state governments in India are implementing a series of initiatives to control outdoor particulate air pollution.
This scientific paper recommends that investing further in state-specific air pollution control strategies will improve population health and facilitate India’s aspiration to reach a US$5 trillion economy.
Prof Vinod Paul, Hon’ble Member NITI Aayog said on the release of the findings, “This scientific paper presents the latest evidence on air pollution in India, translating the health loss to economic impact,” adding, “Air pollution and its impact is not a matter for the health sector alone, and the solutions lie in a multi-sectoral approach with a common commitment to reducing exposure to toxic air, which is impacting the health and productivity of Indians.”