Some 1.7 million Indians died due to air pollution in 2019, according to a report by interdisciplinary journal Lancet Planetary Health. The report ‘The India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative’ estimates health and economic impacts of air pollution, both from indoor and outdoor sources. The toll in India was 18 per cent of the total deaths in the country, claimed the report released December 21, 2020.

The findings in this analysis show that while 40 per cent of the disease burden due to air pollution is from lung diseases, the remaining 60 per cent is from ischemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and neonatal deaths related to preterm birth, thus highlighting the broad-ranging impact of air pollution on human health.

The report has both good and bad news for India: Indoor, or household, air pollution caused 64 per cent fewer deaths in the last two decades (1990-2019), according to the report. The bad news is that outdoor air pollution, or ambient air pollution, is not only increasing but also killing more. “The death rate from outdoor ambient air pollution has increased during this period by 115 per cent,” the study claimed.

When the percentage of economic loss, with respect to GDP, was considered, it was found Uttar Pradesh lost the most at 2.2%. It was followed by Bihar, which lost 2% of its GDP. The economic losses attributable to indoor air pollution were least in Goa at $7.6 million and the most in UP at $1,829.6 million. Delhi suffered the highest per-capita economic loss and Haryana took the second position. India has lost 1.4 per cent of GDP due to premature deaths and morbidity from air pollution. It is equivalent to Rs 2,60,000 crore in monetary term — more than four times of the allocation for healthcare in the Union budget for 2020-21. Lung diseases caused by air pollution accounted for the highest share — 36.6 per cent — in the total economic losses.

The findings reported in the paper are part of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. The analytical methods of this study have been refined over a quarter-century of scientific work, which has been reported in over 16,000 peer-reviewed publications, making it the most widely used approach globally for disease burden estimation. These methods enable standardised comparisons of health loss caused by different diseases and risk factors between different geographies, sexes, and age groups, and overtime in a unified framework.