Study finds bad air kills a million Indians a year
NEW DELHI – At least 1 in 8 deaths in India can be attributed to air pollution, according to a new nationwide study that serves as the latest grim addition to research on the long-term health effects of the country’s bad air.
More people died last year in India because of air pollution than from tobacco use, according to the study published Thursday in the journal Lancet Planetary Health.
The fact that pollution is behind 1 in 8 deaths is “remarkable,” said Lalit Dandoni, director of the India State Level Disease Burden Initiative, which conducted the study. “We’ve always thought of it as high, but to see it like that is quite a massive impact on health.”
The study found that 77 percent of India’s population is exposed to levels of harmful particulate matter that exceed the standard set by the government. That threshold is already four times the limit recommended by the World Health Organization.
Air pollution in India is a complex phenomenon with multiple sources that include car exhaust, industrial emissions, construction dust and the burning of crop residues. The use of wood, charcoal and dried dung for fuel and heating also creates harmful pollution within rural homes.
The phenomenon is most intense in northern India and the country’s capital of New Delhi during the winter months. That’s when temperatures drop and wind speeds fall, trapping pollutants and creating a regionwide haze.
The study examined diseases for which it found firm evidence of causation by air pollution. Those included lower respiratory infections, chronic inflammatory lung disease, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and lung cancer. It estimated that 1.24 million deaths last year could be attributed to air pollution.
Another study in August found that Indians on average lost 1.53 years of life expectancy due to air pollution, while research last month estimated that it cut 5.3 years from the average Indian person’s life span.