Outdoor and household particulate matter pollution led to the deaths of more than 116,000 Indian infants in their first month of life in 2019, as per the the State of Global Air 2020 report
Air pollution is now the largest risk factor for death among all health risks, according to the report
NEW DELHI: Over 1.67 million deaths in India were linked to air pollution in 2019 that also contributed to 116,000 infant deaths in their first month of life, a study by the Health Effects Institute (HEI) has revealed. The study, State of Global Air 2020, was conducted by HEI in cooperation with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington and the University of British Columbia. The report is based on the most recent Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study published in the international medical journal, The Lancet last week
The findings of the report are based on the most recent Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study published in the international medical journal, The Lancet last week. The report, a comprehensive analysis of air pollution’s global impact on new born found that outdoor and household particulate matter pollution contributed to the deaths of more than 116,000 Indian infants in their first month of life in 2019. More than half of these deaths were associated with outdoor PM2.5 and others were linked to use of solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking, the report said.
Calling air pollution the largest health risk, the report also highlighted that long-term exposure to outdoor and household air pollution contributed to over 1.67 million annual deaths from stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung diseases, and neonatal diseases, in India in 2019. According to the report, for the youngest infants, most deaths were related to complications from low birth weight and preterm birth.
The report comes at a time of the covid-19 pandemic that is being driven by the coronavirus disease for which people with heart and lung disease are particularly at risk of infection and death—has claimed more than 110,000 lives in India. Although the full links between air pollution and covid-19 are not yet known, there is clear evidence linking air pollution and increased heart and lung disease creating a growing concern that exposures to high levels of air pollution, during winter months in South Asian countries and East Asia, could exacerbate the effects of covid-19.
Infants in the first month of life are already at a vulnerable stage. But a growing body of scientific evidence from multiple countries, including recent Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)-supported studies in India, indicates that particulate air pollution exposure during pregnancy is linked to low birth weight and pre-term birth. These latter conditions, both of which are associated with serious complications, already account for the vast majority of deaths in the neonatal period (455,000 in 2019). The State of Global Air report also estimates that nearly 21% of neonatal deaths from all causes are attributable to ambient and household air pollution.
“This newest evidence suggests an especially high risk for infants born in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Although there has been slow and steady reduction in household reliance on poor-quality fuels, the air pollution from these fuels continues to be a key factor in the deaths of these youngest infants," said Dan Greenbaum, President of HEI.
“Overall, air pollution is now the largest risk factor for death among all health risks," the report said adding that the ongoing challenge of high outdoor air pollution — South Asian countries including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal feature among the top ten countries with the highest PM2.5 exposures in 2019; all of these countries experienced increases in outdoor PM2.5 levels between 2010 and 2019.
The report noted that use of solid fuels for cooking, however, presents a pattern of moderate success. Since 2010, more than 50 million fewer people have been exposed to household air pollution. The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Household LPG programme and other schemes have helped to dramatically expand access to clean energy, especially for rural households. More recently, the National Clean Air Programme has spurred action on major air pollution sources in cities and states around the country.