Most pollution-linked deaths occur in India

  • India is ranked number one globally on the toll taken by pollution, with a staggering 2.51 million deaths in 2015, an international commission has reported.
  • Of an estimated 9 million premature deaths linked to pollution worldwide, the country accounted for about 28%.
  • Air pollution, the leading cause, killed 6.5 million people around the world. India and Bangladesh recorded the largest increases in pollution-related deaths among the 10 most populous countries for the year. The results of the study were published in the journal The Lancet .

The leading cause

  • Nearly a quarter of all deaths in India in 2015 were attributed to pollution; Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, and Kenya too reported one in four deaths due to the same cause. Again, air pollution took the heaviest toll in India (1.81 million), followed by water (0.64 million).
  • Ambient air pollution was the leading cause in the country, while deaths from household air polluted by solid fuels came a close second, at 0.97 million.
  • Half a million deaths were caused by unsafe water sources, while unsafe sanitation was behind 0.32 million deaths.
  • China had the second highest mortality from air pollution at 1.58 million, while water pollution in the neighbouring country was linked to about 34,000 deaths, compared with 0.64 million in India.
  • Particulate matter pollution in the air was severe in several cities in India and China: average annual concentrations of PM 2.5 (particulates less than 2.5 microns in width) were greater than 100 microgrammes per cubic metre.
  • More than half of all global deaths due to ambient air pollution occurred in India and China during the year of study, the report said.

Diseases implicated

  • Deaths linked to air pollution were a result of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Pollution has been responsible for most non-communicable disease deaths, The Lancet said, pointing to industrialisation, urbanisation and globalisation as the drivers, and calling for remedial measures.
  • In 2015, all forms of pollution combined were responsible for 21% of all deaths from cardiovascular disease, 26% due to ischaemic heart disease, 23% due to stroke, 51% due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and 43% due to lung cancer, the report said. “Pollution was also responsible for three times as many deaths as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.
  • The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health is a two-year project that involved over 40 international health and environmental authors. 


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