As many as 1.7 million deaths in India — 18 per cent of the total deaths in the country — were attributable to air pollution in 2019. The economic impact of this health loss due to lost productivity was huge, resulting in 1.4 per cent loss in the country’s GDP in 2019, which is equivalent to Rs 260,000 crore (US$ 36.8 billion), a new study has said.
The India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative published a scientific paper on Tuesday on the health and economic impact of air pollution in Lancet Planetary Health, which documents the trends in health loss due to air pollution and its economic impact in every state of India, using the latest improved methods and data.
The findings in the paper highlight that while the disease burden due to household air pollution is reducing in India, the same has increased due to ambient outdoor air pollution.
The economic loss due to air pollution as a percentage of the state GDP was higher in the northern and central India states, with the highest in Uttar Pradesh (2.2 per cent of GDP) and Bihar (2 per cent of GDP).
“Besides a roughly estimated expenditure of 0.4 per cent of the GDP on treatment of air pollution-related diseases, the health and economic impact of air pollution is highest in the less developed states of India, an inequity that should be addressed,” Prof Lalit Dandona, director of the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative, who is National Chair of Population Health at ICMR, professor at Public Health Foundation of India, and senior author of the paper, told The Indian Express
Dandona pointed out that the high burden of death and disease due to air pollution and its adverse economic impact from loss of output could impede India’s aspiration to be a $5-trillion economy by 2024.“Improved methods in this paper have led to a higher estimate of the impact of air pollution on health and disease in India than previously estimated,” he said.
Director General of ICMR, Prof Balram Bhargava, said the findings show that while 40 per cent of the disease burden due to air pollution is from lung diseases, the remaining 60 per cent is from ischemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and neonatal deaths related to preterm birth, highlighting the broad-ranging impact of air pollution on human health.
According to Prof Kalpana Balakrishnan, Department of Environmental Health Engineering, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, there is an expanded battery of health outcomes that are now recognised as attributable to air pollution. “Air pollution has been identified as a risk factor and a multifactorial approach is required to address control strategies,” she said.
The findings reported in the paper are part of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. The analytical methods of this study have been refined over a quarter century of scientific work, which has been reported in over 16,000 peer-reviewed publications, making it the most widely used approach globally for disease burden estimation. These methods enable standardised comparisons of health loss caused by different diseases and risk factors between different geographies, sexes, and age groups, and over time in a unified framework, said Prof Sagnik Dey, Centre for Atmospheric Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.
Meanwhile, household air pollution is decreasing in India, resulting in 64 per cent reduction in the death rate attributable to it from 1990 to 2019, whereas the death rate from outdoor ambient air pollution has increased during this period by 115 per cent.
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