Air pollution killed over 1.16 lakh infants in 2019, says global study

At least half of the infants died because of high levels of air pollution with outdoor PM2.5, while the death of the others was caused by pollution due to solid fuel, says global study

According to the study, India had the highest annual average PM 2.5 concentration exposure in the world in 2019.

Over 116,000 infants in India did not live long enough to complete even a month and over 1.67 million people died due air pollution that resulted in high particulate matter (PM) in 2019, a global study has said.

At least half of the infants died because of high levels of air pollution with outdoor PM2.5, while the death of the others was caused by pollution due to solid fuel such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung that is used for cooking in villages, said the State of Global Air 2020 (SoGA 2020), the first comprehensive study of the impact of air pollution on infants across the globe.

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Complications arising from preterm birth and low birth weight caused the deaths of most infants, the study said.

It said that in 2019, more than 1.67 million people died from stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung diseases, and neonatal diseases caused by outdoor and household air pollution.

According to the study, air pollution is now among the biggest death risks, only behind high systolic blood pressure, tobacco and dietary risks. 

India had the highest annual average PM 2.5 concentration exposure in the world in 2019, followed by Nepal, Niger, Qatar and Nigeria, the report said.

It also debunked the government’s claim that air pollution is reducing in India. According to the report, PM 2.5 pollution has only been increasing since 2010. The study also said that India is among the top 10 countries that had highest ozone (O3) exposure in 2019. 

India has, however, managed to reduce the number of people exposed to household pollution from 73 per cent to 61 per cent, as many, especial in rural India, got access to clean energy through schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Household LPG programme.

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The study released by on Wednesday was based on data obtained from monitors on the ground and satellite. 

The State of Global Air report is a comprehensive analysis of the levels and trends in air quality and health for every country in the world. It is produced annually by the US-based Health Effects Institute and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s (IHME’s) Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project.

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