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One in every eight deaths in India last year could be attributed to air pollution, which now contributes to more disease burden than smoking, according to a study published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal. The states which recorded the highest exposure to particulate matter PM 2.5 were Delhi, Haryana and Punjab.

According to the study by the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative, which offers the first comprehensive estimates of deaths, disease burden, and life expectancy reduction associated with air pollution in each state, 12.4 lakh deaths in India in 2017 were attributable to air pollution — 6.7 lakh due to outdoor particulate matter and 4.8 lakh due to household air pollution. Of these, over half were aged less than 70 years.

“The average life expectancy in India would have been 1.7 years higher if the air pollution levels were less than the minimal level causing health loss, with the highest increases in the northern states of Rajasthan (2.5 years), Uttar Pradesh (2.2 years), and Haryana (2.1 years),” said the study.

The estimates show that India, which accounts for 18 per cent of the global population, recorded a 26 per cent of the global premature deaths and disease burden due to air pollution.

“India has one of the highest annual average ambient particulate matter PM 2.5 exposure levels in the world. In 2017, no state in India had an annual population weighted ambient particulate matter mean PM 2.5 less than the WHO recommended level of 10 µg/m³, and 77 per cent of India’s population was exposed to mean PM 2.5 more than 40 µg/m³, which is the recommended limit set by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards of India,” it said.

According to it, the major sources of ambient particulate matter pollution in India are coal burning in thermal power plants, industry emissions, construction activity, brick kilns, transport vehicles, road dust, residential and commercial biomass burning, waste burning, agricultural stubble burning, and diesel generators.

“The findings in this paper are based on all available data on air pollution that were analysed using the standardised methods of the Global Burden of Disease Study.

According to the WHO database of air pollution, 14 of the 15 cities with the worst air pollution in the world are in India.

(With PTI Inputs)

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