Air pollution is estimated to have caused nearly 4.9 million deaths in 2017 with India and China accounting for 1.2 million each, which was the highest in the world, according to a report ‘The State of Global Air.’ The report is a collaboration between the Health Effects Institute and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease Project.
Other countries with the highest number of deaths attributable to air pollution in 2017 were Pakistan (128,000), Indonesia (124,000), Bangladesh (123,000), Nigeria (114,000), the United States (108,000), Russia (99,000), Brazil (66,000), and the Philippines (64,000).
Air pollution is ranked fifth among the highest global risk factors for death and accounted for 8.7 percent of all deaths globally in 2017. Breathing polluted air increases a person’s chances of developing heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases, lung infections, and cancer.
The report tracked outdoor air quality, and the concentrated on two pollutants in particular: fine particle air pollution (particulate matter measuring less than 2.5 micrometers in aerodynamic diameter, or PM2.5) and ozone found near the ground level (tropospheric ozone). It also tracked the exposure to household air pollution from burning fuels such as coal, wood or biomass for cooking.
“In 2017, 3.6 billion people (47 percent of the global population) were exposed to household air pollution from the use of solid fuels for cooking. These exposures were most common in sub-Saharan Africa, South and East Asia”, the report said.
The report further highlighted that 846 million people in India and 452 million people in China, (60 percent and 32 percent of the population respectively) were exposed to household air pollution in 2017.
In a positive development, India reduced its amount of households cooking with solid fuels from 76 percent in 2005 to 60 percent (846 million) in 2017 partly due to a major government program to move households from solid fuels to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). The government initiative, known as Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), provided LPG connections to 35 million low-income families free of charge between 2016 and early 2018 and aims to provide 80 million connections by 2020.
The top 10 countries with the lowest national PM2.5 exposure levels were the Maldives, the United States, Norway, Estonia, Iceland, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, Brunei, and Finland.
Recently, India launched a program to battle the increasing level of pollutants in the air. The National Clean Air Program (NCAP) is a time-bound national level strategy for pan India implementation to tackle the increasing air pollution problem across the country.
In September 2018, the Delhi government also approved several measures to encourage the use of clean energy to combat the deteriorating air quality in the national capital.
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