As Delhi reels under high levels of air pollution, a study on Thursday said the city recorded the highest levels of exposure to ultra fine particulate matter, PM 2.5, last year while asserting that outdoor pollution reduced the average life expectancy in the national capital by 1.5 years.
The study, published in the Lancet Planetary Health journal,said that Delhi recorded 12,322 deaths due to air pollution last year.
Uttar Pradesh, last year, recorded the most 2,60,028 deaths attributable to air pollution, followed by Maharashtra at 1,08,038 and Bihar 96,967, it said.
The annual population-weighted mean exposure to ambient particulate matter PM2.5 in India was 89.9 g/m3 in 2017, which was one of the highest in the world, the study said.
Delhi recorded the highest PM 2.5 exposure level followed by Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana, and then in Rajasthan, Jharkhand and West Bengal, it said.
The national capital registered the highest impact due to exposure to ambient particulate matter PM2.5, among all states, the study said, adding the average life expectancy in Delhi was reduced by 1.5 years due to outdoor air pollution last year.
The national capital is followed by Haryana, where the average life expectancy reduced by 1.4 years. In Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, the average life expectancy reduced by 1.3 years, said the first comprehensive estimates of deaths, disease burden, and life expectancy reduction associated with air pollution in each state of India by the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative.
It claimed that the average life expectancy in India would have been 1.7 years higher if the air pollution level (including both the outdoor and indoor air pollution) were less than the minimal level causing health loss.
The study comes against the backdrop of a study conducted by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) which claimed that Delhi’s air quality during the past two decades was the “most deadly” in 2016 as it reduced the life expectancy of a resident by more than 10 years.
It had also asserted that the national capital was the second among the 50 most polluted areas of the country.
The impact of household air pollution in reducing average life expectancy was highest in Rajasthan followed by Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Assam and Tripura, said senior author of the study Lalit Dandona, Research Professor at PHFI and Director of the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative.
The study conducted by experts and scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) along with other Indian collaborators and the Union health ministry claimed that one in eight deaths in India last year was attributable to air pollution, which contributes to more disease burden than tobacco use.
According to the study, 77 per cent of India’s population is exposed to outdoor air pollution levels above the National Ambient Air Quality Standards safe limit of 40 g/m3, with the northern states having particularly high levels of it.
It said the major sources of ambient particulate matter pollution in India are coal burning in thermal power plants, industry emissions, construction activity, brick kilns, transport vehicles, road dust, residential and commercial biomass burning, waste burning, agricultural stubble burning and diesel generators.
The study asserted that with 18 per cent of the global population, India suffered 26 per cent of premature mortality and health loss attributable to air pollution globally.
There were 6.7 lakh deaths due to outdoor particulate matter air pollution and 4.8 lakh deaths due to household air pollution in India last year, it said.
The first author of the study, Prof Kalpana Balakrishnan, Director, Department of Environmental Health Engineering, Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research, said there is increasing evidence globally about the association of air pollution with premature death and disease burden.
“The findings in this paper are based on all data available on air pollution that were analysed using the standardised methods of the Global Burden of Disease Study.
“Leading air pollution scientists from India contributed to this research. This comprehensive effort over several years has for the first time produced what we believe are robust estimates of the health impact of outdoor and household air pollution in every state of India,” Prof Balakrishnan said.
There has been increasing consensus in recent public and policy debates in India on the need to address the adverse health impact of air pollution, Dandona said.
“The findings in this paper that one out of every eight deaths in India can be attributed to air pollution, which is now responsible for more disease burden in India than tobacco use, would help increase the momentum for controlling air pollution.
“With substantial variations between the states, the estimates of outdoor and household air pollution exposure for every state, and the state-specific number of deaths and life-expectancy reduction associated with air pollution would be useful to guide policy suitable for the situation in each state,” he said.