Health & Wellbeing
IND | Dec 23, 2020

Air pollution killed 1.7 million Indians in 2019 says interdisciplinary journal report

/ Our Today

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Lancet Planetary Health journal says air pollution in India is up by 115%. (Photo: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)

The death rate from outdoor ambient air pollution in India has jumped by 115% in the last two decades.

A report by interdisciplinary journal, Lancet Planetary Health pointed out that some 1.7 million Indians died due to air pollution in 2019. The report titled, ‘The India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative,’ which was released on Monday estimates that the death toll from air pollution represents 18 per cent of the total deaths in India.

The report highlighted the health and economic impacts of air pollution from both indoor and outdoor sources. On the positive side, indoor or household air pollution caused 64 per cent fewer deaths in the last two decades (1990-2019).

On the negative side is the fact that outdoor air pollution or ambient air pollution is not only increasing but also killing more. The study reported that the death rate from outdoor ambient air pollution has increased during this period by 115 per cent.

India loses 1.4 per cent of GDP from air pollution

The report estimates that India has lost 1.4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due to premature deaths and morbidity from air pollution. It is equivalent to Rs 2,60,000 crore in monetary term.

This is more than four times of the allocation for health care in India’s national budget for 2020-21. According to the report, lung diseases caused by air pollution accounted for the highest numbers in terms of total economic losses estimated at 36.6 per cent.

The economic loss due to air pollution as a percentage of the state GDP was higher in the northern and central Indian states, The highest economic losses were recorded in Uttar Pradesh with 2.2 per cent of GDP while the economic loss for Bihar was 2 per cent of GDP.

A residential area is seen shrouded in smog in New Delhi, India on Sunday, November 15. Picture taken with a drone. (Photo: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui)

Delhi had the highest per-capita economic loss due to air pollution, followed by Haryana in 2019. The report placed the economic loss due to lost output from premature deaths and morbidity attributable to ambient particulate matter pollution within the range of $9.5 million in the small northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh to $3188.4 million in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Economic loss from indoor air pollution

In term of economic losses attributable to indoor air pollution ranged, Goa had the least loss at $7.6 million and UP the highest at $1829·6 million. According to the study, “the economic loss due to lost output from premature deaths attributable to ambient ozone pollution ranged from $0.4 million in the small northeastern state of Nagaland to $286.2 million in Uttar Pradesh.”

Government officials say, various state sponsored schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana and the Unnat Chulha Abhiyan have aided in reducing household air pollution in India, “the benefits of which are suggested in the reducing death rate from it as seen in this paper.”

Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine and a co-author of the report stated, “it is imperative that policymakers at the local and national levels take decisive steps to address this serious threat to public health.” 

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