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Poor air quality kills 1.4 million people in India annually

Last Updated: Sunday, February 14, 2016 - 15:44
Poor air quality kills 1.4 million people in India annually

More than 1.4 million people die prematurely every year in India due to household and outdoor air pollution, researchers have estimated

While air pollution kills more than 5.5 million people prematurely every year, India and China together account for 55 percent of these deaths, the research showed.

The international team of researchers from India, China, Canada and the US estimated that despite efforts to limit future emissions, the number of premature deaths linked to air pollution will climb over the next two decades unless more aggressive targets are set.

Power plants, industrial manufacturing, vehicle exhaust and burning coal and wood all release small particles into the air that are dangerous to a person's health.

In India, a major contributor to poor air quality is the practice of burning wood, dung and similar sources of biomass for cooking and heating.

Millions of families, among the poorest in India, are regularly exposed to high levels of particulate matter in their own homes.

"India needs a three-pronged mitigation approach to address industrial coal burning, open burning for agriculture, and household air pollution sources," said one of the researchers Chandra Venkataraman, professor at Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, in Mumbai.

In China, burning coal is the biggest contributor to poor air quality.

Outdoor air pollution from coal alone caused an estimated 366,000 deaths in China in 2013, Qiao Ma, a doctoral student at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, noted.

Ma also calculated the expected number of premature deaths in China in the future if the country meets its current targets to restrict coal combustion and emissions through a combination of energy policies and pollution controls.

She found that air pollution will cause anywhere from 990,000 to 1.3 million premature deaths in 2030 unless even more ambitious targets are introduced.

"Our study highlights the urgent need for even more aggressive strategies to reduce emissions from coal and from other sectors," Ma said.

The findings were presented on Friday at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC.

The research is an extension of the Global Burden of Disease study, an international collaboration led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington that systematically measured health and its risk factors, including air pollution levels, for 188 countries between 1990 and 2013.  

First Published: Sunday, February 14, 2016 - 15:44

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