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Outdoor air pollution causes over 2m deaths annually in India: study

The South Asian country lies next only to China, says a modelling study published in renowned medical journal The BMJ.

A pedestrian walks past a wall mural painted to grab attention on the issue of air pollution in Mumbai in the western state of Maharashtra. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

By: India Weekly

OUTDOOR air pollution from all sources accounts for 2.18 million deaths per year in India, second only to China, according to a modelling study published in renowned medical journal The BMJ.

The research found that air pollution from using fossil fuels in industry, power generation, and transportation accounts for 5.1 million extra deaths a year worldwide.

This equates to 61 per cent of a total estimated 8.3 million deaths worldwide due to ambient (outdoor) air pollution from all sources in 2019, which could potentially be avoided by replacing fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy, the researchers said.

These new estimates of fossil fuel-related deaths are larger than most previously reported values suggesting that phasing out fossil fuels might have a greater impact on attributable mortality than previously thought, they said.

The team, including researchers from Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Germany, used a new model to estimate all cause and cause-specific deaths due to fossil fuel-related air pollution and to assess potential health benefits from policies that replace fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy sources.

They assessed excess deaths — the number of deaths above that expected during a given time period — using data from the Global Burden of Disease 2019 study, NASA satellite-based fine particulate matter and population data, and atmospheric chemistry, aerosol, and relative risk modeling for 2019, in four scenarios.

The first scenario assumes that all fossil fuel-related emission sources are phased out. The second and third scenarios assume that 25 per cent and 50 per cent of exposure reductions towards the fossil phase-out are realized. The fourth scenario removes all human-induced (anthropogenic) sources of air pollution, leaving only natural sources such as desert dust and natural wildfires.

The results show that in 2019, 8.3 million deaths worldwide were attributable to fine particles (PM2.5) and ozone (O3) in ambient air, of which 61 per cent (5.1 million) were linked to fossil fuels. This corresponds to 82 per cent of the maximum number of air pollution deaths that could be averted by controlling all anthropogenic emissions, according to the researchers.

Attributable deaths to all sources of ambient air pollution were highest across South and East Asia, particularly in China with 2.44 million per year, followed by India with 2.18 million per year, they said.


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