Over 23.5 lakh premature deaths in India due to pollution in 2019, highest in world: Study

Air pollution -- both household and ambient -- was responsible for the greatest number of deaths at 6.67 million worldwide and about 16.7 lakh in India
Image used for representational purposes (File photo)
Image used for representational purposes (File photo)

NEW DELHI: One in six deaths worldwide was caused by pollution with approximately 9 million dying due to it, of which the highest number of casualties was reported in India, according to the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2019 published in the Lancet.

India saw over 23.5 lakh premature deaths due to all types of pollution. About 16.7 lakh fatalities were caused by air pollution -- 9.8 lakh by ambient PM2.5 pollution and 6.1 lakh due to household air pollution, said the study. Water pollution killed 5 lakh, while there were 1.6 lakh occupational pollution related deaths and 2.3 lakh due to lead exposure.

Air pollution -- both household and ambient -- was responsible for the greatest number of deaths at 6.67 million worldwide. Reductions have occurred in the number of deaths attributable to the types of pollution associated with extreme poverty. However, these reductions in deaths from household air pollution and water pollution are offset by increased deaths attributable to ambient air pollution and toxic chemical pollution (lead), said the report.

Deaths from these modern pollution risk factors, which are the unintended consequence of industrialisation and urbanisation, have risen by 7% since 2015 and by over 66% since 2000.

Despite ongoing efforts by UN agencies, committed groups and individuals and some national governments (mostly in high-income countries), little real progress against pollution can be identified overall, particularly in the low-income and middle-income countries, where pollution is most severe. Urgent attention is needed to control pollution and prevent pollution-related disease, with an emphasis on air pollution and lead poisoning and a stronger focus on hazardous chemical pollution.

Air pollution is most severe in the Indo-Gangetic Plain (northern India), where topography and meteorology concentrate pollution from energy, mobility, industry, agriculture and other activities, the researchers said, adding that burning of biomass in households was the single largest cause of air pollution deaths in India, followed by coal combustion and crop burning.

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