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article imageIndia's filthy air claimed 1.24 million lives in 2017

By Karen Graham     Dec 6, 2018 in Environment
Delhi - India’s filthy air claimed 1.24 million lives in 2017, or 12.5 percent of total deaths recorded that year, according to a study published in Lancet Planetary Health on Thursday.
Sadly, 51 percent of those who died from the polluted air were under 70 years of age, according to the study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Indian government and the Indian Council of Medical Research.
Air pollution is a major planetary health risk, with India estimated to have some of the worst levels globally. Delhi is ranked as the most polluted metropolitan city in the world, while 14 out of 20 of the most polluted metro areas of the world are located in India.
The severity of air pollution is based on the amount of tiny particulate matter in the air, known as PM 2.5, that can reach deep into the lungs and cause major health problems. WHO's recommended level of PM 2.5 is 10 μg/m³.
Burning of rice residues after harvest  to quickly prepare the land for wheat planting  around Sangr...
Burning of rice residues after harvest, to quickly prepare the land for wheat planting, around Sangrur, SE Punjab, India.
However, it was found that most states, and 76·8 percent of the population of India, were exposed to annual population-weighted mean PM2·5 greater than 40 μg/m³, which is the limit recommended by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards in India.
Breaking down the deaths, about 480,000 people died from household pollution related to the use of solid cooking fuels. Household air pollution is caused mainly by the residential burning of solid fuels for cooking and to some extent heating, including wood, dung, agricultural residues, coal, and charcoal
About 670,000 people died from air pollution in the wider environment, including emissions from vehicles, road dust, residential and commercial biomass burning, waste burning, agricultural stubble burning, and diesel generators.
India's pollution problem has not changed
India has a population numbering 1.38 billion people as of the end of 2017, spread across 29 states, and seven union territories, many of which are as large as some countries. One major issue in fighting pollution levels in India is the varying degrees of development in the country. This has contributed to a broad mix of health risks and their impact.
Burning of rice residues in SE Punjab  India  prior to the wheat season.
Burning of rice residues in SE Punjab, India, prior to the wheat season.
Neil Palmer/CIAT
Congress President Rahul Gandhi said that the country needs collective steps for reducing pollution levels in Delhi, according to the Daily Excellsior. Prime Minister Narendra Modi shares the same concerns.
Modi says the rising levels of air pollution are the result of changing lifestyles brought about by India’s economic development. In a recent speech, Modi focused on air conditioning and the high levels of electricity needed to stay cool. In Modi’s view, the people themselves are responsible for creating the pollution by seeking high levels of consumption.
However, Reuters, while noting the “very poor” air quality on Thursday in Delhi, wondered at the "apparent lack of concern about the toxic air - whether through ignorance, apathy or the impact of poverty, saying this apathy "gives federal and local politicians the cover they need for failing to vigorously address the problem."
More about India, Pollution, 124 million deaths, 14 out of 20, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
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