India accounts for 75% of casualties due to air pollution: WHO

By: | Published: September 27, 2016 7:35 PM

Air pollution is killing nearly eight lakh people annually in the South East Asian Region with India alone accounting for over 75 per cent of the casualties caused by cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer, according to a new WHO report today.

The highest - 2,49,388 died of IHD in India, the report said adding that 1,95,001 people died of stroke. (Reuters)The highest – 2,49,388 died of IHD in India, the report said adding that 1,95,001 people died of stroke. (Reuters)

Air pollution is killing nearly eight lakh people annually in the South East Asian Region with India alone accounting for over 75 per cent of the casualties caused by cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer, according to a new WHO report today.

The report said nine out of 10 people globally are breathing poor quality air while nearly 90 per cent of air pollution related deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, with nearly two out of three occurring in WHO’s South-East Asia including India and Western Pacific regions.

“It is a public health emergency,” said Maria Neira, the head of the WHO’s department of public health and environment.

The report also called for strengthening measures against inefficient modes of transport, household fuel and waste burning, coal-fired power plants and industrial activities – some of the major sources of air pollution.

It said that 94 per cent are due to noncommunicable diseases – notably cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and air pollution also increases the risks for acute respiratory infections.

A WHO South East Asian Region (SEAR) statement said: “Air pollution is the world’s biggest environmental risk to health and must be addressed on a priority basis as it continues to rise, causing long lasting disease and illness in addition to around 7,99,000 deaths annually in countries of the WHO SEAR.”

WHO SEAR statement quoting the WHO Report on Ambient Air Pollution 2016 said that 6,21,138 people died in India of air pollution due to Acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI), Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), Ischemic heart disease (IHD) and Lung Cancer.

The highest – 2,49,388 died of IHD in India, the report said adding that 1,95,001 people died of stroke. Similarly, 11,05,00 people died of COPD while 26,334 people died of lung cancer. However the data for India is of 2012.

“The new WHO burden of disease estimates shows that 94 per cent of the premature deaths caused by air pollution are due to cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancers.

“The remaining are from acute respiratory infections in children under five years of age. The magnitude of the health impact of air pollution calls for urgent action to prevent these avoidable risks and deaths,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia.

The report represents the most detailed outdoor (or ambient) air pollution-related health data, by country, ever reported by WHO.

The model is based on data derived from satellite measurements, air transport models and ground station monitors for more than 3000 locations, both rural and urban.

It was developed by WHO in collaboration with the University of Bath in UK.

The report called for dramatic action against pollution that is blamed for more than six million deaths a year.

The problem is most acute in cities, but air in rural areas is worse than many think and poorer countries have much dirtier air than the developed world, it said.

The report estimates population exposure to PM 2.5 at country level through a new model that relies on satellite data and ground measurements.

According to the latest urban air quality database, 98 per cent of cities in low and middle income countries with more than 1,00,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines.

The country-level data in the new report should serve as an opportunity for policymakers to focus on urgent multi-sectoral actions to promote health, WHO SEAR said.

Countries in the region (SEAR) are already working on addressing household air pollution to reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases.

The introduction of clean and sustainable energy policies and lean and efficient cooking technologies are a key part of the actions needed to clean-up household air pollution caused by the burning of solid fuel such as wood for cooking purposes, it said.

“Governments across the region should find innovative ways to manage fast-paced growth and development with health concerns related to outdoor air pollution,” said Singh.

She highlighted that the new WHO report on air pollution exposure and health impacts is an opportunity for countries to review and enhance efforts to improve air quality.

WHO SEAR said that further efforts and investments should be made to encourage as many cities and countries in the Region to closely monitor air quality, using standard, good quality and comparable methods and instruments, as well as making this information available.

The data should be used to strengthen measures against inefficient modes of transport, household fuel and waste burning, coal-fired power plants and industrial activities – some of the major sources of air pollution.

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