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Air pollution killed 81 lakh globally, 21 lakh in India

The report, produced in partnership with United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said exposure to air pollution was linked to the death of more than 7 lakh children under the age of five years.
Last Updated : 19 June 2024, 09:52 IST

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Bengaluru: Air pollution is the second leading global risk factor for death, with 81 lakh across the world, including 20.87 lakh in India, in 2021 where children are increasingly becoming the victims, the fifth edition of State of Global Air (SoGA) report said.

The report, produced in partnership with United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said exposure to air pollution was linked to the death of more than 7 lakh children under the age of five years. "A staggering 5 lakh of these child deaths were linked to household air pollution due to cooking indoors with polluting fuels, mostly in Africa and Asia," it said.

The report by Health Effects Institute (HEI), an independent U.S.-based nonprofit organisation, offers a detailed analysis of Global Burden of DIsease study 2021, showing that fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), household air pollution, ozone (O3) and nitrogen oxide (NO2) were having severe health impacts on human helath around the world.

The report said PM 2.5 pollution, caused by burning of fossil fuels and biomass, was the largest contributor to the air pollution disease burden worldwide, accounting for 78 lakh deaths. About 4.9 lakh deaths were attributable to ozone. NO2, a pollutant most common to cities, was found to be a major factor affecting people in high-income countries.

The study looked at the data from air quality monitors, satellite observations, global chemical transport models and estimated the PM 2.5 exposures in specific areas by looking at the PM 2.5 concentration in an area and the people living there.

Overall, the mortality estimated for India has gone up from 20,42,000 deaths in 2015 to 20,87,000 in 2021. During the Covid lockdown, the deaths had come down by nearly 1 lakh. The drop was attributed by many studies to the reduction in the burning of fossil fuels.

However, SoGA report quoted newly published studies to suggest that exposure to NO2 and PM2.5 was associated with "an increased risk of Covid-19 incidence among people with lower socioeconomic status compared to others".

Pallavi Pant, HEI’s Head of Global Health said the report offers a stark reminder of the significant impacts air pollution on human health, with far too much of the burden borne by young children, older populations, and low- and middle-income countries.

“This points sharply at an opportunity for cities and countries to consider air quality and air pollution as high-risk factors when developing health policies and other noncommunicable disease prevention and control programs.”

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kitty van der Heijden said despite progress in maternal and child health, every day almost 2000 children under five years old die because of health impacts linked to air pollution.

“Our inaction is having profound effects on the next generation, with lifelong health and well being impacts. The global urgency is undeniable. It is imperative governments and businesses consider these estimates and locally available data and use it to inform meaningful, child-focused action to reduce air pollution and protect children’s health.”

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Published 19 June 2024, 09:52 IST

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