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State of Global Air 2020: HEI

  • 22 Oct 2020
  • 4 min read

Why in News

Recently, a global study, State of Global Air 2020 (SoGA 2020) has been released by the Health Effects Institute (HEI).

  • It highlights that air pollution is the largest risk factor for death among all health risks and it is the first-ever comprehensive analysis of air pollution’s global impact on newborns.
  • HEI is an independent, nonprofit research institute funded jointly by the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency and others.

Key Points

  • India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal are among the top ten countries with the highest PM2.5 (particulate matter) exposures in 2019 and all of these countries experienced increases in outdoor PM2.5 levels between 2010 and 2019.
  • India is also among the top ten countries with highest ozone (O3) exposure in 2019. Also, among the 20 most populous countries, India recorded the highest increase (17%) in O3 concentrations in the past ten years.
  • Long-term exposure to outdoor and household (indoor) air pollution contributed to over 1.67 million annual deaths from stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung diseases, and neonatal diseases, in India in 2019.
  • Important Government Initiatives:
  • Infant Related Data:
    • High PM contributed to the deaths of more than 1,16,000 Indian infants who did not survive their first month.
      • Infants in the first month of life are already at a vulnerable stage and a growing body of scientific evidence-supported studies in India indicates that particulate air pollution exposure during pregnancy is linked to low birth weight and preterm birth.
    • More than half of these deaths were associated with outdoor PM2.5 and others were linked to the use of solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking.
      • Although there has been a 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.
  • Significance of the Study:
    • Addressing impacts of air pollution on adverse pregnancy outcomes and newborn health is important for low- and middle-income countries, not only because of the high prevalence of low birth weight, preterm birth, and child growth deficits but because it allows the design of strategic interventions that can be directed at these vulnerable groups.
  • Air Pollution and Covid-19:
    • Although the link between air pollution and Covid-19 is not completely established, there is clear evidence linking air pollution and increased heart and lung disease.
    • Also, there is growing concern that exposure to high levels of air pollution during winter months in South Asian countries and East Asia could exacerbate the effects of Covid-19.
  • Current Pollution Status:
    • Average pollution levels in India are declining over the past three years but these have been marginal, particularly in the Indo-Gangetic plains which see extremely high PM pollution especially during winter.
    • After a decline in pollution due to the nationwide lockdowns after March, pollution levels are again rising and air quality is dipping to the ‘very poor’ category in several cities.

Source: IE

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