Over 1.2 Million Early Indian Deaths from Unsafe Air in Key Finding of State of Global Air 2019 Report

State of Global Air 2019 Report

Exposure to Household Burning and Outdoor Air Pollution Shortens the Life of a South Asian Child Born Today by over 2 Years

Indian Government Initiates New Steps to Address the
Issue

Exposure to outdoor and indoor
air pollution contributed to over 1.2 million deaths in India in 2017,
according to a new global study. On average the study – State of Global Air 2019 (SOGA2019) – reported that the life of a
South Asian child born today will be shortened by 2 years and 6 months (over
two years) growing up in current high levels of air pollution, while the global
life expectancy loss is 20 months.

At the same time, India has initiated major steps to address pollution sources: the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Household LPG program, accelerated Bharat Stage 6/VI clean vehicle standards, and the new National Clean Air Programme. “These and future initiatives have the potential, if fully implemented as part of a sustained commitment to air quality, to result in significant health benefits in coming years”. Said Robert O’Keefe, Vice President Health Effects Institute. 

Worldwide, air pollution is responsible for more deaths than many better-known risk factors such as malnutrition, alcohol use, and physical inactivity, according to the annual SOGA2019 report and interactive website published by the Health Effects Institute (HEI[1]).  In India, air pollution is the 3rd highest cause of death among all health risks, ranking just above smoking; each year, more people globally die from air pollution related disease than from road traffic injuries or malaria.

Overall, long-term exposure to
outdoor and indoor air pollution contributed to nearly 5 million deaths from
stroke, diabetes, heart attack, lung cancer, and chronic lung disease in 2017.  Out of these 3 million deaths are directly
attributed to PM2.5, half of which are from India and China together. South
Asian countries – Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan – led the world as the
most polluted region, with over 1.5 million air-pollution related deaths.

The analysis found that China
and India together were responsible for over half of the total global attributable
deaths, with each country facing over 1.2 million deaths from all air pollution
in 2017.  China
has made initial progress, beginning to achieve air pollution declines.

For the first time this year’s
report and website include worldwide estimates of the effect of air pollution
on how long people live, or life expectancy. 
Worldwide, air pollution reduced life expectancy by an average 20 months
in 2017, a global impact rivaling that of smoking; this means a child born
today will die 20 months sooner, on average, than would be expected without air
pollution.

The
report also highlighted that nearly half of the world’s population—a total of
3.6 billion people—were exposed to household air pollution in 2017. Globally,
there has been progress: the proportion of people cooking with solid fuels has
declined as economies develop. But in India, 60% of the population still uses
solid fuels; in Bangladesh that number rises to 79%, underscoring the
importance of achieving success in government initiatives to address the
problem.

And household air pollution can be a major source of
impact in outdoor air: with indoor pollution emitted to the outdoor air the
largest cause of health impacts from among all sources in India, contributing
to 1 in 4 outdoor air pollution related deaths.

The State of Global Air 2019 annual report and accompanying interactive website are designed and implemented by the Health Effects Institute in cooperation with the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Texas – Austin.  IHME is an independent population health research center that coordinates the annual Global Burden of Disease (GBD[2]) study, a systematic scientific effort to quantify the magnitude of health loss from all major diseases, injuries, and risk factors in populations across the world. Its results are published each year in the international medical journal, The Lancet. HEI provides leadership for the air pollution portion of the GBD; HEI’s is the only report and website where all of the estimates of exposure to air pollution and their burden of disease included in the GBD air pollution analyses are made available for full public access.

 “The Global Burden of Disease leads a growing worldwide consensus – among the WHO, World Bank, International Energy Agency and others – that air pollution poses a major global public health challenge,” said Dan Greenbaum, President of HEI. “Nowhere is that risk more evident than in the developing world, where nearly half of the world’s population faces a double burden of indoor and outdoor air pollution,” he added.


[1] The
Health Effects Institute is an independent, nonprofit research institute funded
jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, industry, foundations, and
development banks to provide credible, high-quality science on air pollution
and health for air quality decisions.

[2] The Global Burden of Disease is an international effort to estimate the number of deaths and lost years of healthy life due to about 300 diseases in 195 countries, and how much of this burden is caused by 84 different risk factors, including diet, high blood pressure, tobacco smoking and air pollution. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) leads an international team of nearly 3700 scientists from 146 countries in conducting the analysis. The latest estimates of deaths and lost years of healthy life from air pollution, diet, smoking, and other risk factors for all countries can be found in GBD 2017 Risk Factors Collaborators, and others. Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 84 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017.  The Lancet, Vol. 392, No. 10159, p1923-1994, Published November 10, 2018.

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