The air Indians breathe is turning more toxic by the day and an average of two deaths take place daily due to air pollution, says a new study.
According to medical journal The Lancet, over a million Indians die every year due to air pollution and some of the worst polluted cities of the world are in India.
The study released this week but based on 2010 data estimates that globally 2.7-3.4 million preterm births may be associated with PM2.5 exposure and South Asia is the worst hit accounting for 1.6 million pre-term births.
The study says causes of air pollution and climate change are intricately linked and needed to be tackled together.
The Lancet concludes that climate change posed both a “potentially catastrophic risk to human health”, while conversely being “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century” if the right steps are taken.
The smog over northern India is extracting a heavy toll, every minute two lives are lost in India due to ambient air pollution, the study published in The Lancet says.
Further, according an estimate by the World Bank, this would amount to a whopping USD 38 billion loss in income towards labour in India.
Air pollution has also emerged as the deadliest form of pollution and the fourth leading risk factor for premature deaths worldwide, it says.
Recently, 48 leading scientists released the study and they find that Patna and New Delhi the worst polluted cities of the world for PM 2.5 levels or the fine particulate matter that hurts the heart most.
The study notes that a broader evidence base on interrelated health and climate change trends will notably help demonstrate clear co-benefits of action.
An estimated 18,000 people die every day due to air pollution exposure, making it the world’s largest single environmental health risk.
The World Bank in turn estimates it costs the global economy USD 225 billion a year in related lost labour income.
Contradicting some of the Indian reports, The Lancet says coal fired power plants contribute to 50 per cent of the ambient air pollution.
Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Anil Madhav Dave recently admitted in Parliament that the country spends a mere Rs 7 crore annually on monitoring air pollution for a vast country of India’s size with a 1.3 billion population.
He had also said no credible study to quantify number of people who have developed lung and allied diseases or number of deaths directly as a result of air pollution is available.
Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan, a trained physician himself, says, “Pollution when it starts affecting lungs especially in little children can be a killer, it is like a slow poison and there is no reason for me not to be worried, a lot has been done, but still a lot that needs to be done.”