India hits new low in pollution-linked deaths


The escalating pollution menace in the world is invariably seen causing extensive health and environmental hazards in due course of time. Keeping two things in mind — health of citizens and deteriorating air quality — the Supreme Court ordered a ban on the sale of firecrackers in Delhi and NCR in a bid to gift the cleanest Diwali to its citizens. The decision that came after extensive deliberations and bottlenecks in three years was well-received by the euphoric citizens in the Capital. However, post the festival, a vital study on ‘pollution related deaths’ raised many eyebrows when it was recently released. As per a Lancet study, with 2.51 million deaths in 2015, India led the world in the highest pollution-related deaths.pollution

As per the report, China recorded the second highest number of such deaths (1.8 million) while India accounted for about 28 per cent of an estimated nine million pollution-linked deaths worldwide in 2015. The Lancet is one of the world’s oldest and best known general medical journals. It was founded in 1823 by Thomas Wakley, an English doctor. The Lancet has offices in London, New York and Beijing.

The report has found that at 6.5 million premature deaths globally, air pollution was the main cause of deaths in 2015. In fact, India was among the world’s 10 most populous countries in 2015 that had the largest number of pollution-related deaths. The number of water pollution deaths in China was only about 34,000, compared to 0.64 million in the case of India. Nearly 25 per cent of all deaths in India in 2015 were caused by pollution; Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, and Kenya too reported that one in four deaths was caused by pollution.

The number of deaths in India from air pollution was 1.09 million, while deaths from household air pollution from solid fuels were 0.97 million. In the case of water pollution, 0.5 million deaths were caused by unsafe water source, while unsafe sanitation caused 0.32 million deaths. Many cities in India and China recorded average annual concentrations of particulate matter PM2·5 pollution of greater than 100 μg/m³, and more than 50 per cent of global deaths due to ambient air pollution in 2015 occurred in India and China. Diseases such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) due to air pollution resulted into many deaths.

Pollution is responsible for more deaths than a high-sodium diet, obesity, alcohol, road accidents, or child and maternal malnutrition and for three times as many deaths as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined

As the report says: “In 2015, all forms of pollution combined were responsible for 21 per cent of all deaths from cardiovascular disease, 26 per cent of deaths due to ischemic heart disease, 23 per cent due to stroke, 51 per cent to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and 43 per cent due to lung cancer.” The whole of medical fraternity agrees with The Lancet report. Dr Shreekant Sharma, Senior Consultant, Moolchand Hospital opines that pollution is a grave issue.

On an average we breathe 25,000 times a day and every time we inhale air laden with poisonous gases, it get deposited in our lungs. Dr Raj Kumar, Head of Pulmonology Department at VP Chest Institute in Delhi, agrees that pollution is playing havoc with people’s lives. “It is our duty to protect environment to make it worth loving for human beings,” said Dr Mahipal Sachdeva, Chairperson, Centre for Sight.