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Outdoor air pollution killed 0.65 million Indians in 2010, says study
Oct 04, 2015

A study published in the journal Nature has for the first time taken into account the data from highly polluted regions like Asia for estimating the global mortality caused by air pollution.

Finding of the study

⇒ Of the 3.3 million premature deaths worldwide in 2010 caused by outdoor air pollution, about 0.65 million deaths took place in India. These deaths were in adults older than 30 years and children younger than five years
⇒ India has the second highest premature deaths caused by outdoor air pollution. With 1.35 million deaths annually, China ranks number one in the world.
⇒ Residential energy use is an inefficient form of fuel combustion that causes lot of smoke and is by far the most important cause of premature mortality in Asia. It contributes to one-third of premature mortality globally
⇒ Emissions from residential energy use, together with waste disposal and diesel generators, contributes to 32 per cent deaths in China but 50-60 per cent in the case of India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.

India Specific observation in study

  • At 0.32 million, more than half of premature mortality due to outdoor air pollution in India was from residential energy use for heating and cooking.

  • Power generation was the second biggest culprit causing nearly 90,000 deaths in 2010

  • Of the seven sources of outdoor air pollution, residential energy use is the most important category that causes the most premature deaths worldwide.

  • While outdoor household air pollution from solid fuels was the leading cause of mortality (0.44 million deaths) even in China, other sources like agriculture (0.39 million deaths) power generation (0.24 million deaths) caused a sizable number of deaths unlike in India.

Air Pollution and Diseases

Air pollution is associated with many health impacts. The different disease categories include cerebrovascular disease and ischemic heart disease leading to strokes and heart attacks. Strokes and heart attacks are responsible for nearly 75 per cent of air pollution related mortality, and more than 25 per cent is related to respiratory disease and lung cancer

Problems of chulahas

The improved chulhas, which are supposed to be smokeless, provide very little health relevant exposure reduction,That is because solid fuel can’t be burnt in relatively inexpensive stoves. There is compelling evidence to move towards cleaner fuels than cleaner chulhas.

Cause of concern

What is of greater concern, particularly for India and China, is that the authors’ estimate of 1 million premature deaths globally due to emissions from solid fuel and also waste disposal and diesel generators is in addition to the 3.54 million deaths per year due to indoor air pollution from the same sources.
If emissions from residential energy use cause one-third mortality worldwide, another one-third comes from power generation, industry, biomass burning and land traffic. But these have a relatively smaller contribution in the case of India — 90,000 deaths from power generation, 42,000 deaths from industry, 42,000 deaths from biomass burning, and 30,000 deaths from land traffic.

Future Projection

On the basis of model projections, the authors predict that premature mortality from outdoor air pollution could double by 2050 on the basis pf projected rates of increase in pollution and population levels, with 6.6 million premature deaths forecast globally per year, including large increases in Southeast Asia and the western Pacific. 

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