Delhi will record world’s largest number of premature deaths due to air pollution
LONDON: In another 10 years, Delhi will record the world’s largest number of premature deaths due to air pollution among all mega cities in the world.
By 2025, nearly 32,000 people in Delhi will die solely due to inhaling polluted air.
However it will be another Indian city – Kolkata that will record the highest number of such deaths by 2050.
Kolkata will see its number of premature deaths spike between 2025 and 2050 and will record 54,800 deaths due to air pollution – more than Delhi which will record 52,000 deaths and Mumbai with 33100 deaths during the same year.
Together, these three Indian cities topped the list of premature deaths due to harmful particles like PM2.5 and O3 in the air.
Annually, 3.3 million people worldwide die prematurely from the effects of air pollution.
This number will double by 2050 to 6.6 million if emissions continue to rise, according to a team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz.
In 2010, 75% of the premature mortality by air pollution occurred in Asia – with 1.4 million people/year in China and 650,000 people dying every year in India.
Pakistan recorded the third highest number of deaths due to air pollution in 2010 – 1.10 lakh followed by Bangladesh (91923), Nigeria (89022) and Russia (67152).
Interestingly, around 54905 people died in 2010 in US, majority of them due to inhaling polluted air released from coal burning in power stations.
In UK on the other hand, 15488 people died due to air pollution – the majority 7438 due to agriculture. Ammonia passes through the excessive use of fertilizers and factory farming leading to air pollution.
In Europe, Russia, Turkey and Japan, agriculture s the leading cause of poor air.
In an exclusive interview to TOI, Johannes Lelieveld, director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry told TOI that India’s man killer will be biofuel use for cooking and heating.
Strokes and heart attacks result in three-quarters of these deaths.
He said “Our study indicates that residential energy use is the leading source category, practiced by many people both in the urban and rural environment in India. It is an inefficient form of biofuel combustion that causes a lot of smoke and is the foremost source of premature mortality by both indoor and outdoor air pollution in Asia”.
Lelieveld added that in India, and actually in most of South Asia, residential energy use should be controlled with priority.
“Also other forms of energy use with low quality fuels should receive attention. One option is to provide improved quality cook stoves, which will help reduce indoor and outdoor air pollution.
Our study shows that the highest growth rates of outdoor air pollution worldwide are expected in India. It will be important to implement policies to prevent that such a scenario becomes a reality,” Lelieveld told TOI.
The study says that in the European Union, particulate matter and ozone is annually claiming 180,000 deaths, including 35,000 in Germany.
The team Lelieveld focused on was particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers and ozone.
The data showed that almost three-quarters of the deaths are due to strokes and heart attacks while 27% was due to respiratory diseases and lung cancer.
Fine particles cause diseases of the cardiovascular system and lung, while ozone causes more lung diseases such as chronic cough and shortness of breath. The microscopic dust particles penetrate deep into the lungs and possibly even into the blood vessels.
He said that in India and China the domestic small fires cause much of the smog. “Although these are only small-scale activities, but if a majority of the population makes it, a lot comes together, said Lelieveld. Overall, a third of premature deaths worldwide are due to this inefficient form of combustion.