In South India, Karnataka has worst air quality

In South India, Karnataka has worst air quality

In south India, Karnataka has the worst quality of air that kills 95 persons out of every 100,000 population, says India's first comprehensive state-wide estimates of deaths, disease burden, and life expectancy reduction associated with air pollution.

Karnataka's toll is worse than the national average of 90 per 100,000 population. On the national scale, one out of every eight deaths in India is attributable to air pollution and more than 50% of the 12.4 lakh air-pollution deaths in 2017 are Indians younger than 70 years.

While the worst quality air is seen in northern states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Bihar and Rajasthan, toxic air kills a lot of people in the south of the Vindhyas, says the study published in the journal Lancet on Thursday.

The death rate per one lakh population due to air pollution stands at 94.8 in Karnataka while the national average is 89.9. The corresponding figures for other southern states are Andhra Pradesh (83.7), Telangana (65.8); Kerala (79.2), Tamil Nadu (75.9) and Goa (58.2).

The toll has been estimated after taking into account both outdoor and indoor air pollution, contributed by factors ranging from household fuel to industrial and vehicular pollution, construction and demolition work and road dust.

“Air pollution now contributes to more disease burden in India than tobacco use, primarily through causing lower respiratory infections, chronic obstructive lung disease, heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, and lung cancer,” said Lalit Dandona, distinguished research professor at Public Health Foundation o India and director, India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative.

One of the surprising findings was continued high use of solid fuel by states like Karnataka and Kerala that are considered economically well-off with a high-proportion of literates. In Karnataka 42.8% people continue using solid fuel, while the number is 35.5% in Kerala.

“Affordability and access continue to be the two major obstacles for a wider spread of LPG connections. The situation has improved in the last two decades as seen from the 2000 census data but the level of awareness needs to increase further,” Kalpana Balakrishnan, one of the co-authors of the paper and a professor at Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research, Chennai told DH.

While the proportion of households using solid fuels has been improving in India, 56% of the population still used solid fuels in 2017; this proportion was higher in the less developed states with over two-thirds of the population in most EAG states using solid fuels for cooking.

The mean ambient particulate matter PM 2.5 (particulate matter of 2.5-micron dimension) annual exposure of 90 microgram/cubic metre in India in 2017 was one of the highest in the world. The highest PM2.5 exposure level was in Delhi, followed by the other north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana.

The researchers also calculated how life-expectancy would have increased if the air pollution concentrations were less than the minimum level causing health loss. In Karnataka, each citizen would have lived 1.4 years longer if the air quality improved. On a national scale, the corresponding number is 1.7 years.

The maximum gain in life would have been seen in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh where life-expectancy increased by two years if the pollution level dipped.

“It is important to have robust estimates of the health impact of air pollution in every state in order to have a reference for improving the situation. The study systematically documents the variations among states, which would serve as a useful guide for making further progress in reducing the adverse impact of air pollution in the country,” said Balram Bhargava, secretary to the Department of Health Research and director general, Indian Council of Medical Research.