1.7 million deaths in India were attributable to air pollution in 2019, says study

This was 18% of the total deaths in the country; it led to economic loss of 1.4% of the GDP or ₹260,000 crore

December 22, 2020 05:54 pm | Updated 06:04 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

In India, 1.7 million deaths were attributable to air pollution in 2019, which was 18% of the total deaths in the country, while the economic loss due to the lost output from premature deaths and morbidity from air pollution was 1.4% of the GDP in India during this time, which is equivalent to ₹260,000 crore ($36.8 billion). This is as per a scientific paper titled ‘Health and economic impact of air pollution in the States of India: The Global Burden of Disease Study 2019’.

The study, published in the The Lancet Planetary Health , has been funded by the UN Environment Programme, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and documents the trends in health loss due to air pollution and its economic impact in every State of India using the latest improved methods and data.

Also read | Air pollution linked to a rise in emergency room visits by children, shows study

The data released further indicates 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 ambient air pollution increased during this period by 115%.

“The economic loss due to air pollution as a percentage of the state GDP was higher in the northern and central India states, with the highest in Uttar Pradesh (2.2% of GDP) and Bihar (2% of GDP). India would benefit from investing further in state-specific air pollution control strategies, as this will facilitate its aspiration of reaching a US$5 trillion economy by 2024,” said the paper.

V.K. Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, speaking about the findings, said that the scientific paper presents the latest evidence on air pollution in India, translating health loss to economic impact.

“India has many ongoing major initiatives to reduce air pollution. This paper provides a robust assessment of the trends and current situation in each State, and highlights that augmenting the existing air pollution control efforts based on the specific situation of each State would be useful. 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,” he said.

Lalit Dandona, senior author of the paper, added that improved methods in this paper have led to a higher estimate of the impact of air pollution on health and disease in India than previously estimated.

“The health and economic impact of air pollution is highest in the less developed States of India, an inequity that should be addressed,” he said.

“The findings in this analysis show that 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 pre-term birth, highlighting the broad-ranging impact of air pollution on human health,” noted Balram Bhargava, Director General, ICMR.

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