Home / Politics / Policy /  Outdoor air pollution claims 627,000 lives in India in 2010: report

New Delhi: Outdoor air pollution claimed 627,000 lives in India in 2010, according to India-specific findings of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study that placed pollution among the top 10 global health risks, ranking it alongside high blood pressure, tobacco consumption and alcoholism.

Among the risk factors, outdoor air pollution ranked fifth in mortality and seventh in the health burden in the country, where it caused the loss of 17.7 million healthy years of life in 2010, said the report released in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Global findings of the GBD were published in December by The Lancet journal and were reported by Mint on 14 December. Outdoor air pollution has emerged as a major health risk in developing countries, contributing to some 3.2 million premature deaths worldwide and 74 million years of healthy life lost in 2010, the report said.

“National level policy makers have to see that density of intervention needs to be substantially increased to get better health outcomes," said Kalpana Balakrishnan, director, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), who contributed to the research in India that went into the report.

“ICMR has launched a maternal, child and adult air pollution cohort to develop integrated exposure response from the government," Balakrishnan told reporters.

Contrary to existing perceptions, Balakrishnan said air pollution in rural India was as bad, or may be worse, than air pollution in urban India, where the problem has been compounded by exhaust fumes from an increasing vehicular population.

The report also says that indoor air pollution leads to an increase in outdoor air pollution. “Household solid fuel emissions also contribute to ambient air pollution," said Aaron Cohen, co-chair of the GBD ambient air pollution expert group.

Balakrishnan said one million deaths in India can be attributed to indoor air pollution every year, noting that according to the 2011 census, 67% of India’s population still used solid fuel.

The latest data indicates that globally, air pollution-related deaths have increased by 300% since 2000 and nearly 65% of these deaths occur in Asia. There has been an unprecedented increase of 300% in diseases attributed to air pollution.

“This is a shocking and deeply disturbing news. This calls for urgent and aggressive action to protect public health," Sunita Narain, director general at the Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based not-for-profit, said in reaction to the report.

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