India had the world’s highest number of deaths due to air, water and other forms of pollution in 2015, according to a study published in the Lancet journal today which showed that pollution killed as many as 2.5 million people in the country. Most of these deaths are due to non-communicable diseases caused by pollution such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), researchers said. According to the study, air pollution is the biggest contributor, linked to 6.5 million deaths in 2015 in the world while water pollution (1.8 million deaths) and workplace- related pollution (0.8 million deaths) pose the next largest risks. Researchers, including those from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi and Icahn School of Medicine in the US, pointed out that almost 92 per cent pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. In rapidly industrialising countries such as India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Kenya while deaths due to pollution can account for up to one in four deaths. “In 2015, the greatest numbers of deaths due to pollution occurred in India (2.5 million deaths) and China (1.8 million),” the study said.
Welfare losses due to pollution are estimated to cost more than $4.6 trillion each year, equivalent to 6.2 per cent of global economic output, it said. Pollution is linked to an estimated nine million deaths each year worldwide – equivalent to one in six (16 per cent) of all deaths.
The report found that pollution as a result of outdoor and indoor air pollution, water and soil contamination, and chemical pollutants is one of the largest risk factors for premature death. Pollution disproportionately affecting the poor and marginalised in every country worldwide, researchers said.
Workplace pollution, including exposure to toxins and carcinogens, was linked to 0.8 million deaths from diseases such as such pneumoconiosis in coal workers, bladder cancer in dye workers, and asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other cancers in workers exposed to asbestos. The study also pointed out that lead pollution was linked to 0.5 million deaths that resulted from high blood pressure, renal failure, and cardiovascular disease caused by lead in adults.
Types of pollution associated with industrial development, such as ambient air pollution (including ozone), chemical, occupational pollution and soil pollution, have increased from 4.3 million (9.2 per cent) in 1990 to 5.5 million (10.2 per cent) in 2015 as countries reach higher levels of development.