Study finds bad air kills a mil­lion In­di­ans a year

The Buffalo News - - CONTINUED FROM THE COVER - By Joanna Slater WASH­ING­TON POST

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.

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