Outdoor air pollution was responsible for six per cent of the total disease burden in India in 2016, a new study has revealed at a time a thick grey smog hung low over Delhi-NCR leaving residents gasping for breath. According to the study report, disease burden due to air pollution remained high in India between 1990 and 2016, as it caused non-communicable and infectious diseases such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and infections.
The study, titled ‘India State-level Disease Burden’, was published in The Lancet journal today. After child and maternal malnutrition, which was India’s leading risk factor for health loss in 2016 causing 14.6 per cent of the country’s total disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), air pollution was the second leading risk factor in India as a whole.
This risk factor encompasses both outdoor air pollution from a variety of sources as well as household air pollution that mainly results from burning solid fuels for cooking and heat. “While the total burden from air pollution in India declined between 1990 and 2016, this was largely driven by efforts to reduce the use of solid fuels in households.
“Outdoor air pollution continues to pose a significant and growing challenge to population health,” according to the study, conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Public Heath Foundation of India (PHFI) and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
The outdoor air pollution increased due to a variety of pollutants from power production, industry, vehicles, construction and waste burning. The study, however, stated that burden of household air pollution decreased during this period due to decreasing use of solid fuels for cooking.
“Household air pollution was responsible for 5 per cent of the total disease burden in India in 2016, and outdoor air pollution for 6 per cent,” the report stated. The study mentioned that the burden due to outdoor air pollution is highest in northern states, including Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar, and West Bengal.
Exposure to household air pollution from solid fuels has dropped by 52 per cent in India since 1990. Whereas, the summary exposure value of outdoor air pollution increased by 17 per cent from 1990 to 2016. The report called for ramping up of efforts through inter-sectoral collaborations based on the specific situation of each state for controlling air pollution.
It also stated that strategies will need to be implemented to tackle environmental risk factors such as outdoor air pollution. The Lancet Commission last month published a report which found that pollution caused over nine million deaths worldwide in 2015 — accounting for 16 per cent of the deaths worldwide. The report found that India had the world’s highest number of deaths due to air, water and other forms of pollution in 2015. Pollution killed as many as 2.5 million people in India, highlighting that pollution disproportionately affects the poor, according to the report.