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.