2.5 million died due to pollution in India in 2015: Lancet study

New Delhi: Even as national capital Delhi reels under heightened air pollution levels following Diwali celebrations, a report has said that pollution led to 2.5 million deaths in India in 2015 –the highest in the world.

India was closely followed by China, which saw 1.8 million deaths due to pollution during the year.

The report, published in The Lancet journal, said that in 2015, pollution was the reason behind nine million deaths worldwide—or about one in six.

“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),” it added.

Of the nine million deaths, air pollution was the biggest contributor, linked to 6.5 million of them, while water pollution was responsible for 1.8 million. Workplace-related pollution was the reason behind 0.8 million deaths.

Causes for air-pollution-linked deaths included ambient air pollution, which is outdoor air pollution comprising gases and particulate matter, as well as household air pollution, which results from the burning of wood, charcoal, coal, dung, or crop wastes indoors; and ambient ozone. Water pollution included unsafe sanitation and polluted water sources.

Workplace pollution included exposure to toxins and carcinogens and deaths resulting from diseases such as pneumoconiosis in coal workers, bladder cancer in dye workers, and asbestosis, lung cancer, and other cancers in workers exposed to asbestos.

Deaths due to lead pollution resulted from diseases such as high blood pressure, renal failure, and cardiovascular diseases, the study said.

The study also held that almost all pollution-related deaths—about 92%—occur in low- and middle-income countries; and in rapidly industrializing countries—India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Kenya—deaths due to pollution can account for up to one in four.

The study also said welfare losses due to pollution are estimated to cost more than $4.6 trillion each year, equivalent to about 6.2% of global economic output.

The study added that with “many emerging chemical pollutants still to be identified, these figures are likely to underestimate the true burden of pollution-related disease and death”.

The report also said that as countries develop and industrialize, the type of pollution and the related health problems they face change. For instance, water pollution and household air pollution are common in early stages of industrial development, causing higher rates of pneumonia and diarrhoeal diseases in low- and middle-income countries.

“Deaths associated with water and household air pollution have reduced from 5.9 million deaths in 1990 to 4.2 million in 2015,” the study highlighted.

It, however, added that 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 in 1990 to 5.5 million in 2015 as countries reach higher levels of development.