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Air pollution contributed to 6.67 million deaths worldwide in 2019: Report

By: LMB Staff

A comprehensive analysis of air pollution’s global impact on newborns finds that outdoor and household particulate matter pollution contributed to the deaths of more than 116,000 Indian infants in their first month of life in 2019,  according to a  new global study, State of Global Air 2020 (SoGA).  

The State of Global Air presents a comprehensive analysis of three types of air pollution known to impact human health: ambient (outdoor) fine particle pollution, ambient tropospheric ozone, and household air pollution.

More than half of these deaths were associated with outdoor PM2.5 and others linked to use of solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking

How Has COVID-19 Affected Air Quality?

The COVID-19 pandemic led to unprecedented restrictions that dramatically reduced global and local travel, shut down schools and businesses, and halted some industrial activity.

As evidence from some countries shows, these changes are only temporary. As restrictions have lifted, emissions have risen — quickly erasing any gains in air quality. Since air pollution’s most substantial health burdens arise from chronic, long-term exposure, COVID-19 has offered only a temporary respite from air pollution.

Here are the key findings of the report:

1. In 2019, over 90% of the world’s population experienced annual average PM2.5 concentrations that exceeded the WHO Air Quality Guideline of 10 μg/m3. The highest annual average exposures were seen in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East

2. Long-term exposure to outdoor and household air pollution contributed to over 1.67 million annual deaths from stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung diseases, and neonatal diseases, in India in 2019. For the youngest infants, most deaths were related to complications from low birth weight and preterm birth.  

3. The report highlights the ongoing challenge of high outdoor air pollution — South Asian countries including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal feature among the top ten countries with the highest PM 2.5  exposures in 2019;  all of these countries experienced increases in outdoor  PM2.5 levels between  2010 and  2019.

4. Since  2010, more than 50  million fewer people  have been exposed  to household  air  pollution. The  Pradhan  Mantri Ujjwala  Yojana Household  LPG program  and  other  schemes  have helped  to  dramatically  expand access  to  clean  energy,  especially  for  rural households.

5. In 2019, air pollution is estimated to have contributed to 6.67 million deaths (95% UI: 5.90 to 7.49 million) worldwide, nearly 12% of the global total. Air pollution is the leading environmental risk factor for early death, with its total impact exceeded only by high blood pressure (10.8 million, 95% UI: 9.51 to 12.1 million), tobacco use (8.71 million, 95% UI: 8.1 to 9.3 million), and dietary risks (7.94 million, 95% UI: 6.5 to 9.8 million).

“An  infant’s  health  is  critical  to  the future of  every  society,  and  this newest  evidence suggests  an  especially high  risk for  infants  born  in  South Asia  and sub-Saharan  Africa,” said  Dan  Greenbaum,  President  of  HEI. 

“Although  there has  been slow  and steady reduction  in  household  reliance  on poor-quality fuels, the  air pollution from  these  fuels  continues  to be  a  key factor  in the  deaths  of  these  youngest  infants,” he added. 

LMB Staff

LMB Staff

Let Me Breathe (LMB) is a platform that provides space to document and tell stories of living and surviving air pollution, climate change and end of fossil fuels in India – by simply using their 🤳🏾

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