Pollution killed 2.3 million people in India in 2019, says Lancet study

·3-min read

Air pollution led to more than 2.3 million premature deaths in India in 2019, the greatest toll of any country in the world, according to a new study published by The Lancet.

Pollution was responsible for approximately 9 million premature deaths worldwide that year, a figure that corresponded to “one in six deaths”, explained the latest study from the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health that was published on Tuesday.

The greatest number of premature deaths recorded were attributed to India, which lost about 2.3 million people. The study included China, the US and many African and European countries as well.

Nearly 1.6 million deaths in India were due to air pollution alone, while more than 500,000 were caused by water pollution, it said.

Researchers also pointed out that the majority of deaths were caused by ambient PM2.5 pollution, while a portion of deaths were caused by household air pollution.

The study builds on previous research that found pollution was responsible for 9 million premature deaths in 2015, making it the world’s largest environmental risk factor for disease and premature death.

Although there has been a decline in deaths attributable to types of pollution associated with extreme poverty, such as household air pollution and water pollution, this fall has been offset by increased deaths caused by industrial pollution, ambient air pollution and toxic chemical pollution.

The update is based on data from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study from 2019.

The study noted that while India has made efforts against household air pollution through government policies aimed at providing alternate energy sources, it still had the world’s largest estimated number of air pollution-related deaths in 2019.

“India has developed instruments and regulatory powers to mitigate pollution sources but there is no centralised system to drive pollution control efforts and achieve substantial improvements,” it said.

“In 93 per cent of India, the amount of pollution remains well above WHO guidelines,” it added.

The study found more than 90 per cent of pollution-related deaths occurred in low-income and middle-income countries, with China following India at number two with 2.1 million deaths.

“Pollution is still the largest existential threat to human and planetary health and jeopardises the sustainability of modern societies,” said study co-author Philip Landrigan, director of the Global Public Health Program and Global Pollution Observatory at Boston College, US.

“Preventing pollution can also slow climate change - achieving a double benefit for planetary health - and our report calls for a massive, rapid transition away from all fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy,” Mr Landrigan said.

Indian cities have routinely dominated global pollution rankings.

Northern India suffers heavy pollution at the start of the winter season every year, triggered by the stubble burning practice of agriculture-oriented states.

Other sources such as industrial and vehicular pollution, coupled with lack of political will to combat it, however, keep air and water quality in the country to poor levels throughout.

The report also said that in 2000, losses due to traditional pollution were 3.2 per cent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Since then, death rates caused by traditional pollution have fallen and economic losses have reduced substantially, but these are still around 1 per cent of India’s GDP.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting